Arsenal News: Arsene Wenger Will Continue Playing Lukas Podolski As A Central Striker

   on May 02 2013 11:23 AM

Lukas Podolski will continue playing as a central striker, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. It's a major gamble from the Gunners' boss in the club's race for a top four finish.

Arsenal.com quoted Wenger endorsing Podolski's ability to lead the attack through the middle. Podolski has only been deployed centrally twice since joining Arsenal last summer.

He played as the main striker on the opening day of the season against Sunderland. He failed to make a credible impact in a 0-0 draw.

His next foray as a central striker came in the recent 1-1 home draw with new champions Manchester United. Again Podolski was quiet for much of the game.

It's been easy to assume Podolski belongs in the middle for Arsenal. After all he is an assured finisher with a prolific international record.

However, those who expected Podolski to step in and fill the void left by Robin van Persie, missed the point. That's because Podolski has rarely been used through the middle.

He doesn't play there for Germany, or for former club FC Cologne. For the vast majority of his career Podolski has operated as wide forward on the left side.

From there he has often chipped in with a clutch of goals and assists. Despite inconsistencies, that's just what Podolski has given Arsenal this season.

He's managed 14 goals and 10 assists. Those aren't stats to be ashamed of, but they have come from the left flank.

Of course Wenger has engineered similar switches, from out wide to central striker, for previous players. He did it for Thierry Henry, van Persie and has dabbled with doing the same for Theo Walcott.

What was different was that those players were younger than the 27-year-old Podolski. Attempting such a significant transition for a veteran player, with Arsenal's top four hopes in the balance, is a huge risk.

And it's not just positional suitability that raises doubts over Podolski's place in the middle. Durability has to rank as a concern.

He has lasted a full 90 minutes on only four occasions this term. In fact reports today suggest Arsenal are even urging Podolski to undergo ankle surgery once the season ends, according to Goal.com.

Arsenal need a sharp, quick-witted striker to lead their forward line. If Podolski is slowed by an underlying ailment, Arsenal's attack will suffer and lack an end product.

There have also been reports that Podolski could be targeted for a transfer this summer. That speculation comes from Metro, claiming Galatasaray are keen to offer £12 million for his services.

However, plans for summer surgery and a commitment to deploying him centrally, certainly make it appear Wenger isn't ready to give up on Podolski just yet.

Podolski's finishing touch and instinct for goal recommends him for a role in the middle. However, there are more reasons to doubt, rather than endorse playing the Germany international centrally.

The Gunners spent big to land Podolski only last summer. Yet with Arsenal only one point behind Chelsea and two ahead of Spurs in the top four race, now is a dangerous time to try and justify an investment.

Wenger is gambling big that Podolski's experience will be enough in the absence of the suspended Olivier Giroud. It's a risk borne out of erring on the side of caution.

If Wenger bets right on this contrast, Podolski will fire the goals to keep Arsenal in the top four. If he's bet wrong, Wenger may have blunted Arsenal's attack at the most crucial time of the season.