Aston Villa v Arsenal: Arsene Wenger lauds fit-again Lukas Podolski as 'one of the best finishers I have ever seen'

The German has returned from a four month absence following his recovery from a hamstring tear and will feature heavily with Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner injured

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident fit-again German forward Lukas Podolski can have a big impact as the Gunners look to last the distance in the Barclays Premier League title race.

With Theo Walcott sidelined for the rest of the season and out of the World Cup after suffering a serious knee injury in the closing stages of the FA Cup win over Tottenham last weekend, Arsenal are in need of some attacking options to support lead frontman Olivier Giroud.

Podolski marked his return from four months out with a torn hamstring to come off the bench and score in the 3-1 win at West Ham on Boxing Day.

Although the 28-year-old was then somewhat subdued when handed a start in a central attacking role for the New Year's Day game against Cardiff, Wenger is in no doubt of what Podolski can bring to the side when firing on all cylinders.

"Podolski has been out for four months and after being available, it doesn't mean you are competitive in the Premier League - it takes some time to come back," said Wenger, whose side head to Aston Villa on Monday night looking to sustain their position at the top of the table.

"He is working hard. This week he looked sharper in training, so he is getting closer now to being completely fit again.

"If there is one (player) you want to see in front of the goal in a shooting position, it is him because Podolski is certainly one of the best finishers I have ever seen.

"He can play that central role when he is completely fit and is one of the potential assets we have there.

"When he is physically ready, he will of course help us."

Giroud suffered an ankle injury during the 1-0 win at Newcastle on December 29, with his decisive goal ending a mini-drought.

The French forward then had to miss the Cardiff match because of illness, and was rested completely for the FA Cup tie against Spurs.

Wenger feels there is plenty more to come from the powerful, 6ft 4in frontman and the rest of his team over the second half of the season.

"Giroud needed a rest physically and he got one, and I am convinced he will come back refreshed and ready to score again," said Wenger.

"What is most important, for Olivier Giroud and for me, is the team produces a good collective performance.

"[Whether] he scores or somebody else, we have plenty of people who can score and for me it is always most important that we play the football we want to play, and after anybody can score in my team."

Arsenal are on the lookout to bring in some cover for Giroud during the January window, with injured duo Nicklas Bendtner and Yaya Sanogo still short of full match fitness.

The likes of Real Madrid starlet Alvaro Morata and Fulham veteran Dimitar Berbatov have both been touted as potential targets, along with £32million-rated Brazilian Diego Costa at Atletico Madrid.

Wenger, though, insists anyone who eventually does arrive should not be seen as a replacement for Giroud.

"It (a new signing) would not be against any player - we want the squad to be as strong as possible, to fight and to have the chance to win the battles we want to win," said Wenger.

"But I don't think (any of) our players would be upset - you cannot play in a big club and be upset about any speculation, because all the players have to face that."

Arsenal have not lost at Villa Park in the Premier League since 1998.

Wenger, though, will take nothing for granted against a team who recorded a shock 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the Premier League season and are scrapping for points at the other end of the table.

"We have overall a good away record in recent years and that is part of the explanation," said the Gunners boss.

"Playing at Aston Villa has always been very physical, tense games, but we always found the resources to do well (there).

"Why? There is no specific reason, so let us just make sure that it continues."

PA

News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable