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What we learned from Arsenal’s comeback win over West Ham

Lukas Podolski

Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski celebrates his goal against West Ham United during their English Premier League soccer match at Upton Park, London, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)


  • Lukas Podolski made the difference

And how. Just back from that long injury, German international Lukas Podolski looks eager to contribute and, more importantly, healthy and fit enough to do so.

Strangely, we might say that Aaron Ramsey’s injury was the all-important Boxing Day game-changer for the league-leaders.

Ramsey’s crumbled under a challenge and on came Podolski. His deployment along the left was a blessing for Santi Cazorla, who shifted inside more centrally, a better spot for his creative ways. Arsenal trailed at the time, 1-0. (Don’t sweat it, Wojciech Szczesny; your goof was hardly the biggest for the PL backstoppers on a day of begloved wobble and bobble.)

Before long, Podolski’s drive and ambition had paid off as he had a goal and an assist. His entrance, his ability to toggle inside and then outside to locate the passing lanes, absolutely changed the game – some of that because Cazorla was doing some of the controlling and creating that seems to be escaping Mesut Ozil at the moment. Speaking of which …

  • This was the Gunners lineup everyone has been waiting for

Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil on the field together, with the speedy Theo Walcott to boot! Gunners fans have been pining away for it. Whether that lineup will provide enough defensive cover for the Citys and Uniteds and Chelseas, etc., we’ll have to see. But for a match where there was bound to be boundless bus parking, the “all creative hands on deck” approach was needed.

Now Arsene Wenger will even have the option of adding a fit Podolski to this increasingly spicy soup.

But there is also a matter of Ozil looking a bit weary from it all. In a game Arsenal had to win – the Gunners certainly didn’t want to go winless in five games overall – Wenger apparently felt that he couldn’t afford not to have his very best on the field. Even if Arsenal needed more than an hour to find the breakthrough, you’d have to say it was the right move. Arsenal found enough offense for 28 shots, eight on target.

(MORE: Gunners rally to take all three points from West Ham)

On another day, a trip into Upton Park might have looked like a chance to rest Ozil or perhaps Giroud. But given all the aforementioned bus parking sure to happen in “East, East, East London,” Wenger adjudged it worth the risk of over-working those two. After all, a true Premier League title contender must beat the relegation bound, right? Home or away, right?

So Wenger made just one change from the team that went scoreless against Chelsea, with Cazorla replacing Tomas Rosicky

  • Oh, Oliver Giroud!

Giroud has certainly been good for Arsenal this year. But that’s not the question, is it?

Doesn’t a Premier League champion generally require a great striker? And with the aforementioned concerns of overwork, there is increasing recognition that Arsenal needs to find another striker in the January transfer window to seize this rather surprising opportunity for Premier League glory.

Giroud missed chance after chance, four in the first half alone! With Ramsey’s dip in form (and now his injury), Wenger needs his striker to be striking more than ever. Perhaps Podolski can subtract a bit of the scoring burden; either way, Giroud and his missed opportunities is sure to be an ongoing topic in the pubs of North London.

Follow @SteveDavis90