sport

Wenger: Fit-again Podolski key

Arsene Wenger insists Lukas Podolski can help Arsenal cope with the recent spate of injuries to a number of the club's forward players.

With Theo Walcott out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury and Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner currently sidelined by an ankle injury, Arsenal have little cover for Frenchman Olivier Giroud.

But Wenger says Podolski, who is edging his way back to peak fitness after four months out with a torn hamstring, can help relieve Giroud of the attacking burden when he is 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.

"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 has been rested for the Arsenal's last two matches although he is expected to return for the visit to Aston Villa on Monday night.

Wenger feels there is still more to come from Giroud and insisted that other players in the team can help relieve the 6ft 4in frontman of the goalscoring burden for the club.

"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."