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Regretful Departures: Podolski and Van Persie

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Three summers ago, Robin Van Persie was involved in that transfer window’s major saga as he moved from Arsenal to Manchester United in search of a Premier League winner’s medal. In preparation for his departure, Arsenal purchased Lukas Podolski earlier that same summer. Three years on and both players have moved to Turkey, Van Persie to Fenerbahce and Podolski to their great rivals Galatasaray. Their respective departures prompt reflection about why the intervening three seasons have not played out as either player or either club would have wished.

Having said that, Van Persie’s United career was by no means an unqualified failure. In hindsight, all parties involved in his transfer from Arsenal gained something. The player won the league title he had long craved, having made a judgment that he was more likely to achieve this at Old Trafford than the Emirates. As things stood in the summer of 2012, this was a sound judgement. He scored 26 league goals in his first season, helping Sir Alex Ferguson to wrestle the title from Manchester City in his final campaign.

Though watching Van Persie win the league in the shirt of a historic rival caused much pain and consternation in Arsenal circles, in truth, it was a good deal for them as well. £24 million for a 29 year old striker with one year remaining on his contract was an offer too good to refuse. Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud were purchased for roughly that sum.

Furthermore, in the last two seasons it’s looked an increasingly good deal as Van Persie’s time at United slowly turned sour. Without a doubt the turning point of Van Persie’s time at the club was the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson; Van Persie was purportedly devastated that he only got to play under him for a sole season. Like other senior players at the club, he did not respond well to the methods employed by David Moyes, with the two barely speaking to each other during the final months of the 2013/14 season.

The appointment of Louis Van Gaal, who Van Persie had worked with at international level, seemed to promise a change of fortune. However, having been overlooked by Van Gaal in the contest for the Manchester United captaincy, Van Persie endured another difficult season punctuated by injury. In what would prove to be his final season at Old Trafford he scored just 10 league goals.

Aside from the managerial changes that seemed cause him disillusionment, it was an old problem that ultimately proved to be Van Persie’s undoing; injuries. When chroniclers of the Premier League era look back on Van Persie’s time in England, they will see just one window between January 2011 and May 2013 when he was free of injury. During this period, he was without question a ‘world class’ centre forward. His early career at Arsenal and last two season’s at United however, will be assessed as periods of unrealised potential due to injuries. At Arsenal these were largely impact injures, his notorious glass like ankles were always carefully wrapped up and padded on matchdays. Recently, there have been more muscular problems that tend to re-occur as players age.

Many people wrongly assume that Olivier Giroud was signed as Van Persie’s replacement at Arsenal; in fact, his successor was Lukas Podolski. Like Van Persie, Podolski is a precise and clinical finisher with an extremely powerful left foot, so one can see the logic that lay behind Arsene Wenger’s decision to bring him to Arsenal. He was given the No.9 shirt and started as the lone central striker on the first day of the 2012/13 season at home to Sunderland.

In Amy Lawrence’s recent book, Invincible, Arsene Wenger uses Podolski as an example to make the point that sometimes a player can end up playing in a position other than the one he was originally signed to play in. This, Wenger argues, is because managers can only fully assess a players qualities once they have worked with them and examined them in training. In Podolski’s case, Arsene Wenger swiftly concluded that he was not suited to being a central striker in Arsenal’s system.

The key issue with Podolski was that he was far too static; whether his lack of movement was due to a lack of understanding of how to play as a lone striker or even sheer laziness. Robin Van Persie was no whippet, but his movement, especially in the box, was exceptional. Gary Neville famously compared Van Persie to a ‘burglar in your house’ in the way in which he deceived defenders with sharp and subtle double movements.

Podolski doesn’t possess such qualities. Granted, when the ball does arrive at his left foot he is capable of firing it with great power and accuracy towards the goal. However, he relied too heavily on service rather than creating space for himself and others through good movement. Arsene Wenger quickly decided that he was better suited in a wide left role.

Last season though, it became apparent that Podolski lacked the attributes to play in that role as well. Firstly, there were concerns about his work rate and defensive application. Arsene Wenger spoke in the spring about the importance of ‘transitions’ in the modern game; that all players have to switch rapidly from defence to attack and vica versa. Those who couldn’t do this, Wenger claimed, couldn’t play. It was clear that Podolski would be rendered redundant should this logic be followed to its conclusion.

Perhaps in a response to the heavy away defeats of 2013/14, Wenger has preferred the more industrious Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain or even Aaron Ramsey in wide areas. If you look back at Arsenal’s win at Man City in January, you will notice how diligently Sanchez and Chamberlain filed back to help their full back. Podolski could not be trusted to get through such a workload. Arsene Wenger was reluctant to play Theo Walcott on the right for a similar reason.

Moreover, Podolski always looked incongruous within Arsenal’s considered and at times intricate build up play. He was a bulldozer among ballet dancers. Contrast this with Olivier Giroud, whose array of clever flicks and touches as seen him become a vital cog in Arsenal’s attacking wheel. A more direct team, possibly where he can play as the second striker in a pair will suit Podolski far better. He leaves Arsenal with decent numbers though, having scored 31 goals in 55 competitive starts.

Neither Podolski nor Van Persie were out and out failures at their respective clubs, but their examples prove that a complex balancing act is required to make a transfer an unqualified success. In Van Persie’s case, the timing of his Manchester United career was unfortunate due to the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and the two tough years that have followed. In Podolski’s case, a talented player with international pedigree who never quite fitted into his suitors system or style.

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University of Nottingham History graduate. Freelance sportswriter specialising in Football, Cricket and Golf. Interested in the politics of sport.

Arsenal

It is too soon for Mikel Arteta to be considered for Arsenal job

The 36-year-old has been linked with the Emirates hot seat.

Jake Jackman

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Mikel Arteta
Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal have a huge summer awaiting them as they will need to appoint a successor to Arsene Wenger and rebuild a squad that has missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.

It won’t be an easy task and the board must act swiftly to make sure the club are prepared for the 2018/19 campaign.

Considering Wenger’s departure was announced weeks ago, Arsenal should have made progress in their search for a replacement.

There will be a number of names under consideration and it is important that they do their due diligence to ensure they can start to move in the right direction again.

BBC Sport report that Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the options being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates Stadium.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As a former player, he would be well received by the fanbase, but it would represent a huge gamble by the club.

The 36-year-old was part of the playing staff under Arsene Wenger as recently as 2016.

Although he will know the problems that exist at the club, he may struggle to exert the authority to correct them considering many of the current squad were his peers.

It has only been two years since the Spaniard retired from playing and he wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for a job of this size this soon.

Upon retiring, he took up a coaching role at Manchester City and the experience will stand him in good stead to move into management one day.

After all, he is working with one of the best managers of all-time in Pep Guardiola and Arteta will have played a role in the team’s record-breaking Premier League season.

That coupled with his history with Arsenal makes him an attractive left-field option for the Gunners.

However, the size of the risk attached to an appointment means that the club should look elsewhere this summer.

The club will want stability, but first and foremost, they will want success.

The fact that Arteta has no managerial experience means that he would be learning on the job and the North London side can’t afford to allow that.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal are a huge club and as the man following Arsene Wenger, the next manager will be scrutinised closely.

It would be a job better suited to a manager with experience and know-how at the top level.

The article goes on to mention both Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Either of them would be a better appointment for Arsenal at this time, as they have both managed big clubs previously.

For Arteta, the fact that he is being linked to a job like Arsenal shows how highly he is thought of within the game.

If he wants to go into management, he needs to leave Manchester City and gain experience as a number one.

If he does that, whether it be in England or abroad, he could be ready to take the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium at a later date.

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Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
Photo: Getty Images

This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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Arsenal hero Patrick Viera would be an underwhelming appointment for Everton

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Photo: Getty Images.

The managerial merry-go-round is warming up ready for another summer of action and it looks increasingly likely that Everton could be involved as fans grow more and more unhappy with the management of Sam Allardyce. What may come as a greater surprise is that the club could turn to Arsenal hero Patrick Viera to replace him.

According to Metro, Viera is admired by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and fits the profile that the Toffees are looking for of a young and dynamic coach to take over at Goodison Park.

Viera has also been linked with the opportunity to replace his former coach Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where he remains a legend, but is currently under contact with New York City, part of the Manchester City group.

(during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match between AS Roma and Manchester City on March 17, 2015 in Latina, Italy.

The Citizens would reportedly not stand in his way of a Premier League move and Everton would be happy to offer more than the £2 million that he currently earns per year, but it would be a hugely underwhelming appointment for the blue half of Merseyside.

Whilst Viera has done well in Major League Soccer in New York, he has not achieved enough to have caught the eye of such a high profile club were it not for his playing career.

Given the finances reportedly available to the next Everton manager and the huge pressure to get an underperforming squad up to scratch and matching expectations, it would be a big gamble if the club were to put their faith in Viera.

He may well have potential, but it would be a surprise to see a club of the size and resources of Everton being the ones to give Viera his first opportunity as a Premier League coach.

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