Arsène Wenger believes that Lukas Podolski is suffering from football culture shock, as his early promise at Arsenal has given way to more questionable form. The Germany striker, who was signed from Köln for £10.9m in July, vented a little frustration on Wednesday when he said that he would prefer to play as a central attacker rather than on the left, where he had "to do a lot of defensive work, constantly running up and down".
Wenger admitted that Podolski's recent performances had been a "bit less fresh" and he attributed it to the 27-year-old's struggles to adapt to the physical intensity of the English game. The manager did not suggest that he was ready to give Podolski a more central role but, ahead of Saturday's home fixture against Fulham, he remained confident that he would find his feet.
"He started well but he works very hard, and in recent games he has been a bit less fresh. He's not used to working at that level of intensity because at Cologne he plays and he says: 'My friends,'" Wenger said, holding out his arms like a spectator. "So when you come to England, it's a shock.
"In England, you have [Wayne] Rooney, who works his socks off … you have everybody who works hard. There is no room for anybody to work less or you don't exist. It's quite interesting to analyse. For example, Saturday's game at Man United, where we were not very good [in the 2-1 defeat], the physical intensity of the game was absolutely unbelievable. If you have one or two players who don't do that, you just don't exist at all."
Wenger told the story of how Robert Pires had been stunned as he took in his first match in the Premier League after signing for Arsenal from Marseille in 2000. "It was at Sunderland," Wenger said, "and I put him on the bench. I said: 'Today, you will sit next to me.' At the time, you had Peter Reid [as the Sunderland manager] and after 20 minutes, they kicked us well. Robert said to me: 'Is it always like that?'
"Podolski will adapt, I don't worry for him. He has a very good spirit and he wants to do very well. Of course, because he tries to help the team, sometimes he does some work now … but he will get used to it. He can as well play through the middle or behind the striker. That is one of the reasons I brought him."
Wenger, though, appears to consider him, primarily, as a player to operate off the left flank, where he has used him for the majority of the time. "I don't find many players who don't want to play centrally," Wenger said, with a smile. "Podolski has 101 caps for Germany and 101 on the left. I brought him with the idea that, when needed, he would play through the middle. I like the idea but we will use him where he is useful for the team."