Thoughts on Arsenal’s Opponents in the Champions League Group Stages

Champions League Group D

Arsenal are paired with Dortmund yet again

After the hard work was done in the qualifiers with Arsenal edging past Besiktas on a nervy Emirates night, it was time for the UEFA Champions League draws and as expected, there were a couple of oooohs and aaaahs with each passing draw. However, Arsenal was the first seeded team in Group D and they have been paired alongside Borussia Dortmund (yet again), Galatasaray and Anderlecht.

Without further ado, Gooner Daily reviews each of Arsenal’s opponents, ranging from their performances in the previous campaign, the current campaign, players to watch out for as well as the final predictions for the group.

Anderlecht

As expected, Anderlecht won the Belgian Pro League last season (taking their tally to 33 titles) with Massimo Bruno and Aleksandr Mitrovic spearheading their attack. They had started the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup victory over Genk (Bruno scored the only goal) but as the season progressed, the Anderlecht fans suffered heartache in the Belgian Cup as the team lost on penalties to Westerlo in the seventh round of the competition.

Bruno celebrating with his teammates

The Belgian side also suffered a dismal Champions League campaign last season as they were paired in the same group with Paris St. Germain, Olympiakos and SL Benfica. They lost their first three games without even scoring to guarantee their elimination and to make things worse, they conceded five goals at home to PSG with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring four. Anderlecht managed to get a 1-1 draw in Paris and that turned out to be their only point of the competition as they lost their remaining two games to stay rock bottom at the group.

At the end of the campaign, Bruno smashed in 16 goals while Mitrovic followed him closely with 15 goals.

This season, Anderlecht fans were saddened to see their top scorer (Bruno) leave for Red Bull Salzburg but they began the campaign with a Belgian Super Cup win over Lokeren with Mitrovic picking up where he left off in the previous campaign. In five Belgian Pro League games played this season, Anderlecht is in pole position with Mitrovic leading the club’s scoring charts.

Mitrovic is Anderlecht’s main man this season

He may just be 19 years of age but Arsenal would ignore Mitrovic at their own peril. After plying his trade in the Serbian League, Mitrovic switched to Anderlecht last season and he scored 16 goals in 39 appearances averaging roughly a goal every two games. He’d be a player to watch out for in the group.

Galatasaray SK

The Turkish giants challenged on all fronts last season and they reaped their rewards with a Turkish Cup victory at the end of the season. There were managerial switches as well with Turkish legend, Fatih Terim, and Italian hot head, Roberto Mancini, getting some time in the dugout. Galatasaray began last season with a couple of preseason encounters, which included participation in the 2013 Emirates Cup. After winning FC Porto in their opening encounter, the Turkish side won the trophy through the help of their talismanic striker and Arsenal’s Kryptonite, Didier Drogba.

Drogba placing a penalty past Szczesny

Their Emirates Cup success was followed by a Turkish Super Cup victory over Fenerbahce with Drogba scoring a late goal in extra time which turned out to be the deciding factor between both teams. Galatasaray also featured in one of the hardest Champions League groups last season as they were paired with Real Madrid, Juventus and FC Copenhagen. Their match opener against Real was a horror show as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged himself a hat-trick. They went on to draw with Juventus in Turin which proved to be a pivotal moment in the group because a victory over the same opponents in a snow-laden pitch (second leg) was enough to book the Turkish side a Round of 16 berth.

In the Round of 16 clash against Chelsea, talk of Drogba’s return to a place he once called home dominated the back pages but the Ivorian’s performances over the course of both legs was very shambolic. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion and the way the fans sang his tunes. In the Turkish league, Fenerbahce sealed off the threat of their rivals to win the title with Galatasaray finishing in second place but with the club facing a ban from UEFA, Galatasaray took their slot.

This season, Drogba returned to Chelsea leaving the goalscoring burden for that season’s top goalscorer, Burak Yilmaz. With a new coach in the form of Cesare Prandelli, the Turks lost their Super Cup tie to Fenerbahce on penalties with Selcuk Inan, Felipe Melo and Yekta Koutulus missing their vital spot kicks.

Burak Yilmaz will be a threat

With Drogba gone, the Galatasaray’s goalscoring burdens rests on the capable hands of Burak Yilmaz that is coming off a campaign where he smashed 18 goals for the team. The goal haul is nowhere near the 32 goals he scored in his debut season with the club but Yilmaz is a player I really admire because of his keen eye for goal and predatory instincts. Let’s hope that the Gunners would do their but to keep him in check.

Borussia Dortmund

Since Bayern Munich’s return to dominance, Dortmund has played the role of second fiddle as they lost out in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal Cup to the Bavarians last season. However, Dortmund began the campaign well as they instilled the first defeat to Pep Guardiola in the German Super Cup but Bayern showed their superiority in the league leading Dortmund with a whooping 19 points as well as scoring the goals that broke their hearts in the German Cup final. To rub salt to Dortmund’s injuries, Bayern snapped their top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, on a Bosman, which didn’t go down well with the Signal Iduna Park faithful.

Dortmund also locked horns with Arsenal in the group stages last season with the Germans winning at the Emirates and the Gunner returned the favor at the Signal Iduna Park.

13/14: Dortmund v Arsenal - Aaron Ramsey

However, with the Gunners losing to Napoli and Dortmund beating Olympique Marseille, it went down to the wire with the Italians crashing out of the competition despite having 12 points. Dortmund eased past Zenit in the Round of 16 but they couldn’t replicate their 2012/13 heriocs against Real Madrid and they were outsed from the competition.

This season, Dortmund began the new campaign like the previous one, beating Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup but the game will be fondly remembered for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Spiderman celebration, a style he also used from his St. Etienne days.

 

Aubameyang has already netted three goals and Dortmund would seek to exploit his raw reserves of pace in their bid for silverware this season. Arsenal’s defense has to be mindful about him.

Qualification Prediction

I’m no Paul the Octopus or soothsayer but judging from the qualities of the teams in this group, Arsenal and Dortmund will have enough in the tank to see them through but they’d have to be careful about the threat Galatasaray will pose. With no disrespect to Andrelecht, but the Belgian side is here to ‘complete the numbers’.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0: Alexis Fires the Gunners into the UCL

The marquee signing finally opens his Arsenal goalscoring account

Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 45′) – Besiktas 0

Emirates (Champions League)

Player Ratings (via the Mail) – Match HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

This was a game of utmost importance to the Gunners and the fact that no goal was scored in Turkey made things a bit uncomfortable at the start of the clash. In recent times, Arsenal had played six qualifying Champions League double-legged and have always excelled into the group stages but this game served as a real test of the team’s nerve and character.

In the space of one week since the last fixture between both sides in Turkey, the Gunners had lost Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud to injury while Aaron Ramsey sat the game out due to a suspension. Per Mertesacker also retained his place with Calum Chambers relegated to the bench. Arsenal almost drew first blood when Jack Wilshere showed great movement to evade two markers before teeing up the Ox. The winger accelerated with the ball before drilling a cross that was blocked.

Sanchez showed off his work rate to win the ball before threading a neat through ball for Wilshere but the maestro’s shot missed by a lick of paint. Besiktas’ goalie, Zengin, made a mess of his clearance that went straight to Santi Cazorla’s path but the diminutive midfielder’s first-timed shot was wide off the mark. Besiktas’ first meaningful attack arrived when an over the top ball was sent to Demba Ba in behind Arsenal’s center back pairing but Wojciech Szczesny showed good anticipation to race off his line and claim the ball.

Sanchez had a sniff at goal from a free kick but it was easy pickings for Zengin. Arsenal launched a counter attack when Cazorla spread a cross-field ball for Mesut Ozil but the German wasn’t in the same wavelength with Sanchez. Mustafa Pektemek was almost afforded a clear chance at goal but Matt Debuchy showed great awareness to make a superb block.

Wilshere had a great game

Wilshere strode forward with the ball before feeding a pass to Sanchez but the Chilean’s poor first touch allowed the ball to go beyond his control. However, Sanchez was to have the last laugh as he latched on to a loose ball to side foot the ball home from another attack instigated by Wilshere.

Alexis Sanchez

Debuchy sent Ox through on goal with a lobbed effort but the keeper raced out of his line to make himself big so the English winger had to make do with a corner kick. Wilshere sent another disguised pass to Sanchez but the goalie was on hand to make another superb save. Arsenal continued to ask questions of the Besiktas defense and the Gunners were almost two goals to the good when Debuchy nodded Cazorla’s dipping free kick to the side netting.

Mathieu Flamini carelessly offered Ba clear chance at goal with a poor clearance but the Senegalese forward didn’t take the initiative, much to the relief of the Emirates faithful. Arsenal kept knocking at the Besiktas’ defensive door and almost made the lead more comfortable when the Ox fired Monreal’s drilled cross straight at the goalie. For a player of his quality, I expected better from point blank range.

Things became a bit uneasy when Debuchy was sent off for his second bookable offence with put his team in a rather precarious situation.

Mathieu Debuchy's clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Mathieu Debuchy’s clumsy challenge on Mustafa Pektemek earns him a second yellow card and an early bath.

 

Ozil had to be sacrificed with Chambers filling the void created at the right full back position. Chambers did well to drift forward and drill a cross to Sanchez but the Chilean hotshot blasted his effort over the bar. The dying moments of the game were very nervy and an equalizer almost arrived when Ba failed to latch on to a cross that was missed by Per Mertesacker.

Wenger talked about Sanchez’ performance, transfer speculation and shared some information about Giroud’s injury. The French bloke had a successfully surgery and would be out for the remainder of the year but as it stands, Wenger confirmed that he doesn’t have anyone in his sights at the moment.

However, he would be concerned about the teams he’d face in the Champions League group stage as the draws take place today.

Thanks, Alexis Sanchez, the football SI Unit for Work Rate, for sending the Gunners into the group stages for the 17th season in a row.

Sayonara.

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Besiktas Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed me some Capital One Cup football last night. It was embarrassing enough that Manchester United was playing in the second round of the competition (big teams usually feature from the third round) but the shitty performance was rewarded with their arses in their faces. A good night became even better when Arsenal loanee, Benik Afobe, scored a brace in the historic win for Milton Keynes Dons.

As expected, the trolling on Twitter took center stage and it was fun. However, playtime is over and the Gunners have a very crucial fixture tonight. The first leg in Turkey had a nervy feel from an Arsenal perspective with Besiktas missing some clear-cut opportunities but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain almost stole it for the Gunners. Arsenal have made it to the group stage of the Champions League for 16 consecutive years and want to make it a 17th with a win at home on Wednesday.

The Gunners had previously been on a 13-match winning streak in Champions League playoff qualifying matches, whether home or away, but the streak was ended when they failed to defeat Besiktas last week. Besiktas manager, Slaven Bilic, has been on the news as well, but he wasn’t talking about selfies this time,

“We’re not going to London to go shopping in Harrods, but to try to fulfil some would say our dream. I’d say our task, our plan. Nobody respects Arsenal more than I do, but I wouldn’t have taken this result before the game. We are big time alive, though. I’m really optimistic.

We’re going to their soil, their stadium, in front of their spectators, but we didn’t concede. We played without our most important player Hutchinson, who is very likely to be fit for the second leg. They’ll be without Ramsey even if they have many great midfield players, but Ramsey is their top man.”

It’s worth noting that Arsenal has never conceded at home to a Turkish team and have never lost to one in 90 minutes and Besiktas has played 14 matches against English teams, losing seven, winning four and drawing three. Besiktas have previously won in England following victories at the expense of Chelsea and Manchester United in 2003 and 2009 respectively. Last season, Arsenal qualified for the group stages after a two-legged victory over Fenerbahce.

Arsene Wenger hopes that the Gunners’ experience would give them an edge in the game and he has stressed the importance of playing in the Champions League,

“For us the Champions League is very important. We want to play at the top level, at international level. Nothing is unthinkable – it (not qualifying for the group stage) has happened to 99% of all the big clubs in Europe.

“But we want to be in there and we think we have the potential to do it. The task is clear and we know we can do it. So let’s do it.”

Arsenal hasn’t recorded a victory since the opening day victory over Crystal Palace but they can take some confidence from their  most recent result against Everton. When it seemed as if the chips were down, the Gunners put up a spirited second half performance and goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud ensured that both teams shared the spoils of an intense battle.

To injury news, the Gunners have a host of players still out injured with Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs, David Ospina out injured. Yaya Sanogo remains doubtful while Aaron Ramsey is suspended. However, it’s really unfortunate to know that Olivier Giroud is joining the Arsenal Treatment Table and despite the fact that Wenger didn’t give out much in his press conference, the papers are already publishing that he’d be out for three months.

Crocked: Olivier Giroud went down against Everton and he will have a second scan on his injured ankle

To team news, David Ospina’s continuous injury absence would pave the way for Wojciech Szczesny to continue doing his thing between the sticks. In defense, I expect Laurent Koscielny, if fully fit, to replace Calum Chambers which would allow him play alongside Per Mertesacker. Nacho Monreal and Matt Debuchy will continue in the full back positions.

In midfield, Mathieu Flamini will be tasked with protecting the back four while Jack Wilshere would play in the box-to-box role with Mesut Ozil playing as the creative hub. This means that the Gunners would start the game with Alexis Sanchez leading the line with Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the flanks.

Recent form

Besiktas: LWWD

Arsenal: WLWWDD

Possible starting lineups

Arsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation Besiktas JK 4-3-3 football formation

Gooner Daily Prediction: 2-0

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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Olivier Giroud’s Injury: How Will Arsenal Cope in his Absence?

Damage: Arsenal will find out how bad Olivier Giroud's injury is on Monday after the striker underwent a scan

Goodison Park. The same ground were the Gunners were thrashed resoundingly in April.

The first half performance against Everton was shambolic. The Ox had some half chances but the erratic defending that allowed Seamus Coleman to get that kind of space was mind-boggling. Arsenal fans may complain that Per Mertesacker was fouled by Romelu Lukaku, Calum Chambers shouldn’t have lounged in for a tackle that wasn’t successful, the defense went to sleep, or that Steven Naismith was offside but at half time, the Gunners were on the brink of another shameful defeat and Arsene Wenger had to respond.

What did the Arsenal manager do? He took off his £32m marquee signing and brought on Olivier Giroud! I’m sure some fans were exasperated. He had a torrid outing against Besiktas, could he fare any better on Saturday evening? He latched onto an Oxlade-Chamberlain dinked ball and launched a shot into orbit from point blank range. Arrrrgh, typical wasteful Giroud! On the turn he fired a Jack Wilshere pass just wide off the mark.

When was he going to score? How many more chances does he need before he finds the back of the net?

Mesut Ozil attempted a through ball that was intercepted but it kindly fell to Giroud’s path but he lashed the ball straight at Tim Howard. With seven minutes to go, Santi Cazorla threaded a neat drilled pass that was poked home by Ramsey. 2-1. Game on!

Everton vs. Arsenal: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

Right at the death, Giroud’s moment of glory arrived – an inch-perfect cross from Nacho Monreal was headed home by the Frenchman to give the Gunners an equalizer. The much-maligned forward scored yet another crucial goal for Arsenal but a certain faction of the fans do not believe that he’s good enough to lead the line for the Gunners.

Player Games Played Goals Scored Result-Changing goals* Points* First Goals
Olivier Giroud 36 16 8 22 8
Luis Suarez 33 31 8 21 7
Daniel Sturridge 26 (3) 21 9 21 6
Yaya Toure 35 20 6 18 5
Wayne Rooney 27 (2) 17 4 10 4
Sergio Aguero 20 (3) 17 4 11 6

*The table above shows some stats from last season, comparing the “terrible” Giroud with the rest of his peers. Result changing goals are goals scored that gave the team a win or a draw, regardless of the order they were scored. The points reflected on this table are generated from the player that ultimately gave his team a win (3) or a draw (1). Yes, when comparing strikers’ performances last season, Giroud won more points for Arsenal than these other individuals for their respective teams.

In the Premier League last season, Giroud single-handedly gave Arsenal all three points against Tottenham (home), Southampton (home), Newcastle (away) and West Brom (away). He scored crucial goals against Fulham (away – match opener), Sunderland (away – match opener), Crystal Palace (away – match winner), Aston Villa (away – match winner), Southampton (away – match opener) and Sunderland (home – match opener).

Despite all these, the Frenchman isn’t fully appreciated by a faction of the fans. They are quick to point out how he has failed to score against the so-called “big teams”, and now he has become a lightning rod for vitriolic abuse when things aren’t going on well on the pitch. Funnily enough, even the great Luis Suarez failed to score against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. These are part of the “so-called big teams” Giroud couldn’t score right? This is a striker that has scored more goals than Wayne Rooney Shrek since he joined the club in 2012. A striker that has been very integral to Arsenal’s attacking style of play.

Giroud’s role is not that of an out and out goalscoring striker. He is not Thierry Henry, he is not Robin van Persie and he is not Ian Wright. He scores goals, and reasonably impressively too if you look at them objectively. 40 goals and 24 assists in 101 appearances is enviable. Van Persie was a goal in 2.09 games kind of striker and Giroud is a goal in 2.5 games kind of striker. – North London is Red.

However, there is a saying that you don’t know what you have until you lose it, Arsene Wenger has expressed his concerns over the fitness of the French forward,

“It is a big game on Wednesday, we hope we can recover. I hope we have not lost Giroud in the final minute. It’s a stretched ankle. It doesn’t look good.”

While we hope for Giroud to pass a late fitness test for the crucial Champions League qualifier against Besiktas and possibly the Premier League clash against newbies, Leicester, before the international break, the Gunners will have to explore the possibility of playing both games without the forward.

Able replacements for Giroud?

Looking at other alternatives, Yaya Sanogo has deputized in Giroud’s stead this season but he has had injury problems to contend with and I have major doubts about his fitness for the aforementioned games. Lukas Podolski is a player that had featured in a handful of games as a center forward last season but he failed to make his mark in that position. Podolski recently rejoined the team from his extended break but he has been heavily linked with a move out of the Emirates this summer and he took to Instagram to release what seemed to look like a farewell note,

“Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out. Opportunities don’t happen, you create them! #StayFocus #NoExcuses #FightForYourGoals #BeStrong #Champs #Victory #Glory #Poldi #aha”

This leaves us with two more plausible alternatives – Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez.

Joel Campbell came to the limelight following his performances at the World Cup and he was a shining star at the Emirates Cup but the fans wondered when he was going to get a chance to strut his stuff at the club. With the Gunners trailing in Goodison Park, Arsene Wenger handed the Costa Rican forward his debut for Jack Wilshere and he didn’t put a foot wrong in his cameo performance. Will the manager risk playing Campbell through the middle in a crucial game like Besiktas? I think not.

That leaves us with the final option – Alexis Sanchez.

4457486

He was substituted at half time

Alexis, as he preferred to be called, played predominantly on the right flank in Barcelona, largely due to the presence of the mecurial Lionel Messi that occupied the center forward position. Nonetheless, he scored 47 goals in 141 appearances for the Catalans with 21 of those goals scored last season, which made his arrival at Arsenal to send the fans into party mode.

After a couple of preseason encounters, Alexis created an assist for Laurent Koscielny in his competitive debut against Crystal Palace and he was a driving force in the first leg against Besiktas in Turkey, showing off his work rate and creativity, even though Giroud, unfortunately, wasn’t in the same wave length.

However, Sanchez had a below-par performance against Everton and he lasted on the pitch for just 45 minutes.

Sanchez's heat map vs Everton

Sanchez’s heat map vs Everton (via Squawka)

Sanchez failed to influence the game the way he would have liked and he drifted away from his deployed position, giving his team no focal point in attack, something Giroud would never do. The fact that a creator-in-chief like Mesut Ozil was deployed on the left didn’t help his cause either. According to Squawka, Alexis only completed 63% of his passes, the lowest of any Arsenal player on the day, and he failed to create any chances either. He also only completed one take-on, which is a disappointing return for a player of his calibre.

However, Arsene Wenger stated that he has no worries about Sanchez’ early season form and believes that he would regain his confidence as the campaign progresses. While we still wait on the team’s medical staff to provide encouraging info about Giroud’s ankle, Arsenal is more than capable in finding a forward that would do well in his absence.

In my honest opinion, that forward is Alexis Sanchez.

Sayonara.

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Reasons Why Arsenal Shouldn’t Sell Lukas Podolski

image

After a long extended break following their World Cup exertions, Arsenal’s German contingent are back in contention and the game against Everton would serve as the fixture for them to see first-team football action.

Last season, Per Mertesacker was an ever-present figure in Arsenal’s defense and he amassed a whooping 52 games, scoring three goals with his most vital being the equalizer against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup semifinal. Mertesacker forged a great understanding with his defensive partner, Laurent Koscielny, and they complimented each other on the pitch, much to the benefit of the club. This partnership saw the Arsenal defense keep 16 clean sheets – a joint highest with the defensive minded Chelsea.

On the other end of the pitch, another German, Mesut Ozil, played in his debut season for the club making 40 apps and scoring seven goals. He came to North London like a house on fire and his early performances were exemplary but as the season progressed, he suffered a loss of form as well as some issues with his overall fitness but he had a good campaign nonetheless.

The same couldn’t be said for Lukas Podolski, that endured a somewhat tumultuous campaign last season.

Podolski opened his goalscoring account with a well-taken brace against Fulham in August but he suffered a nasty hamstring injury in Arsenal’s next game against Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifiers. According to the Daily Mail, he was diagnosed to be ruled out for 10 weeks, but he spent the best part of four to five months out before making his comeback against West Ham.

Blow: Lukas Podolski has been ruled out of action for up to 10 weeks with a hamstring injury

When things seemed really bleak for the Gunners against West Ham, Arsene Wenger summoned the services of Podolski after a long time out and he responded with a goal and an assist which endeared him back to the hearts of the Emirates faithful.

He didn’t feature in the next game against Newcastle with Wenger opting to ease him into game time slowly but with Giroud suffering an ankle injury in the narrow win against Newcastle, Wenger drafted Podolski as a center forward against Cardiff and he struggled badly. Nicklas Bendtner came in his stead and scored a late goal before Theo Walcott sealed the points.

With Giroud and Bendtner out injured, everybody expected Podolski to get the nod as a center forward in the North London Derby but Wenger fielded Walcott in that position ahead of Podolski and he did pretty well before suffering that season-ending injury.

Giroud returned to full fitness and Wenger didn’t hesitate in playing him in his favored center forward role but there was still no space for Podolski in the starting lineup. Santi Cazorla struggled on the left wing and even had a hand in Aston Villa’s goal but when Tomas Rosicky wasn’t deemed fit enough to continue, Arsene Wenger opted to bring on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Podolski, and this time it didn’t go down well with the German.

Despite the fact that Podolski hardly got a run of games in the entire campaign, he still managed to score 12 goals, which made him the third highest goalscorer for the team behind Aaron Ramsey (13) and Olivier Giroud (22).

This summer, Podolski has been heavily linked with a move away from the Emirates and according to the Mirror, he is edging towards a move to Turkey,

“Arsenal have reportedly told Galatasaray they will sell them forward Lukas Podolski, but not Joel Campbell. Galatasaray wanted to sign both players in a £22m deal, but the Gunners are reportedly only prepared to let Podolski go.”

With the amount of money spent this summer, the Gunners may want to cash in on the German but in my honest opinion, the club doesn’t need to. Here are the reasons why.

Podolski’s Goalscoring Threat

Even Arsene Wenger himself has confessed that Podolski is the club’s best finisher and his stats prove so. In his first season with the club, the German banged in 16 goals and he almost matched the tally last season taking his overall goal count for Arsenal at 28 goals in 62 games. Despite the fact that there were games Podolski was largely anonymous, he’s the sort of a player that doesn’t need a second invitation to fire the trigger and in most cases, it’s to devastating effect.

Losing a player like Podolski ultimately means that the club will be prepared to also ‘lose the potential goals’ he’s going to score this season. Podolski also scored 32 goals in his previous two seasons at FC Cologne before joining the Gunners which means that in the past four seasons, the German has smashed in 60 goals (averaging 15 goals per season). It would take some stuffing to find such a player with these numbers that’s not even a first-team regular.

He Adds to the Team’s Depth

Many Arsenal fans were quick to point out that the club’s title challenge fell by the roadside but to injuries suffered by key players. The Ox was the first to suffer a long-term injury in August and Podolski followed suit but the losses of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and at some point, Mesut Ozil, were bitter pills to swallow. Ramsey was in the form of his life and Walcott was nicking in the goals on a consistent basis.

Cazorla kept Podolski out of the team for long periods last season

Santi Cazorla currently marauds the left wing and Alexis Sanchez is a player that can potentially deployed there when Walcott becomes fully fit. This is further diminish Podolski’s chances of featuring but the dynamism of football has shown that injuries, suspensions and other reasons best known to Chuck Norris and Lord Voldemort can make a player get his chance to strut his stuff. If Podolski is sold, Arsenal’s depth will be shortened by a man.

He May Not be Replaced

This is the scariest reason why Podolski shouldn’t be sold.

If the Gunners sell Podolski, Wenger may not replace him with a player of equal or better quality because there are other loopholes that require filling at the club. Thomas Vermaelen’s departure to Barcelona put the club’s defensive options in a rather precarious situation and the fans are hoping that the club mitigates this challenge by signing a new center back. There’s also some talk about a holding midfielder coming in as the Gunners have been linked with a host of names out there.

Even with the potential sale of Podolski, I don’t see the Gunners bringing any winger to replace the German. His compatriot, Marco Reus, has been linked with the club but it seems unlikely to happen.

Conclusion

Despite his output on the pitch, Podolski is also a lovable character off the pitch and the fans adore his antics. Whether it’s screaming ‘Aha!’ in the dressing room or taking selfies everywhere, Podolski has been a positive influence since he joined the club in 2011.

I’d be saddened to see him go.

Sayonara.

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