Podolski has given Arsenal a jolt of optimism

Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 01:00

ARSENAL ARE about to emerge from seclusion. Arsene Wenger’s side have impressed in these early weeks of the season with an unbeaten record that includes the away victory in the Champions League over Montpellier. The test, all the same, will be more stringent still when Arsenal go to Manchester City tomorrow.

There may still be regret that Robin van Persie moved to Manchester United, but nobody at Arsenal has had real cause to rue his departure at present. It may well be that Wenger knew how to replace him even if some fans despaired. Lukas Podolski, for example, swiftly equalised after Montpellier had taken the lead. With three goals in five appearances the forward has calmed nerves in the Premier League and Champions League. “It is experience,” said Wenger, accounting for the impact of the 27-year-old Germany forward. “He has caps.”

All the same, there are reasons too for Podolski’s availability at an appealing price. Between two spells with Koln, he foundered at Bayern Munich. Arsenal, at least, did not discount him but the striker has given the club a jolt of optimism. “He also has a good understanding with Kieran Gibbs as well. He is a clinical finisher. He scored goals last season for a club that went down. For us, he plays more on the left. He can finish, that is for sure.”

The Arsenal manager was not discouraged by Podolski’s days at Bayern. “When a player goes to a big club when he is very young he cannot always handle it,” said Wenger. “There might also be someone in front of them whose place they cannot take. Now he is 27. He has experience of the World Cup and the European Championship behind him.”

The striker has appeared in the finals of each international tournament since 2004, yet there is much still to be done in his career.

He will receive considerable assistance at Arsenal if the midfielder Jack Wilshere returns to the squad after the ankle trouble that has sidelined him since the close of the 2010-11 season. “After three months he will be back, but it takes some while to find that little burst again,” said Wenger.

“It is certain for me that he will be a better player. If you have this kind of injury before the age of 20 you take off again and move forward normally. Jack has no limitation in his ankle. It was just a fracture.”

Still, Wenger does have matters to address. Theo Walcott, in the last year of his contract, has been a substitute of late and could leave as a free agent in the summer. “I still hope to sign him and, of course, the next two months will be vital for us,” he said.

“After that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is. At the moment he doesn’t play regularly but that is not linked with his financial or contract situation.”

Even so, money is an inescapable issue and Wenger sounds unclear as to whether the financial fair play rules that are gradually being introduced will be effective. As it is, Arsenal, for the time being, do not look as if they are unable to compete.

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