As Arsenal sailed into the 5th Round of the FA Cup with a comfortable home victory over League One’s Coventry City, all eyes turned towards the latest wonderkid making his eagerly-anticipated debut.
The young German Gedion Zelalem, at just 16, stole the headlines in an otherwise unremarkable match, with the result surprising no one particularly.
But it was another German who will surely have impressed Arséne Wenger as Lukas Podolski once again took advantage of a fairly rare start to see off any threat of a Cup upset in the first half an hour at the Emirates.
Whilst clearly not the toughest test the Gunners will face this season, you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Podolski’s performance certainly helped Arsenal do that.
The German forward scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season in only his sixth appearance (his third start) in all competitions, meaning he has now averaged a goal every 65 minutes this season.
But once again Podolski failed to complete the full 90 minutes – something he has done only four times since joining Arsenal in the summer of 2012 from FC Koln, where he completed the full game no less than 27 times in his final season for the club.
Seemingly, all is not right between Podolski and the Arsenal manager, who earlier this month criticised his £10 million pound signing for his slow return to fitness after injury, and back in October 2013 called on him to fulfil his full potential rather than playing at ’80, 90 per cent’.
However, there is no doubting the 28-year-old can still improve and if there was ever a likely time for it to happen, now appears to be it.
Arsenal have now won their last seven fixtures in all competitions, with ‘match winners’ or match-winning performances coming from six different players, including all three ‘forwards’(Giroud, Walcott and Podolski) and Santi Cazorla twice.
The Gunners have found their rhythm and are finding goals from different sources, but it hasn’t been easy riding and they have had to remain patient – much to the heartache of the fans – on several occasions, with Niklas Bendtner’swinner against Cardiff coming in the 89th minute, for example.
As players tire and teams become more savvy to opposition tactics and attacking movements, goals become harder to find (unless you are Manchester City) and winning games, let alone trophies becomes even more of a team-effort.
Arséne Wenger – assuming there is no business done before next Friday – will know as well as anyone that he must use as much of his squad as he can.
Podolski, whose 4.9 shots to goal ratio last season was better than both top-scorer Theo Walcott and main striker Olivier Giroud, will surely see more chances come his way and if he can put his fitness troubles behind him, could be one of the key players to any success Arsenal may have this season.