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Podolski return a boost for Wenger ahead of Chelsea derby

Lukas Podolski of Arsenal is injured during the UEFA Champions League Play-Off second leg match against Fenerbahce. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images Lukas Podolski of Arsenal is injured during the UEFA Champions League Play-Off second leg match against Fenerbahce. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Saturday, December 21, 2013
10:31 AM

Arsene Wenger has admitted that the return of Lukas Podolski is a boost because he will add to Arsenal’s goal threat in Monday’s London derby at home to Chelsea.

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The German attacker has been absent since late August when he tore his hamstring but he is available for selection now just ahead of the Gunners’ crucial Christmas schedule.

Yet Jose Mourinho’s Blues have been leaking goals of late, while his strikers are still struggling for goals, so Podolski’s return could timely for Arsenal.

“It is a big boost because he can score goals in big games,” said Wenger.

“He has shown that before. He is a clinical finisher and a great football player.”

Wenger did however offer a note of caution about the German, saying: “When they have been out for a long time it’s sometimes difficult to catch the pace of the game. It takes a little while because he was out with a big injury but now he’s not far away.”

Laurent Koscielny is “80/90 per cent out” of the Chelsea game after suffering a deep gash to his knee in the 6-3 defeat at Manchester City last week, while Jack Wilshere begins the first of a two-game suspension for an offensive gesture at Eastlands.

After Arsenal’s promising start, a reverse against another of their title rivals would cast serious doubts over their claims on the crown.

Should results for Liverpool and Manchester City go against them and then they lose to Chelsea, the Gunners could find themselves in fourth place by Monday night.

Wenger said: “That [fourth place] can happen as well, but we have decided to fight until the last day of the season, and look back at the championship then to think we have given it our all. Are we first or fourth? That [attitude] will not change.

“It is a promise we have made and that is where we can show we are really men, that we can commit to a project to the last day of the season.”

Yet Wenger is hopeful that his side can bounce back from a heavy defeat in their last outing, insisting that the scoreline against City didn’t accurately reflect the contest.

“Quite amazingly, despite the fact we conceded goals, [the Manchester City match] was not all negative because we could have scored six as well, so on the offensive front we have shown that we have huge potential,” Wenger said.

“I believe that we should come out of that game even stronger in our belief, even stronger in our resolute attitude, because we have shown until now that we can be very strong defensively, and as well on the day we have shown that we can be dangerous against anybody.

“We can rectify the defensive problem, but that’s what we want to show against Chelsea.”

Wenger admits there is little Arsenal can do but deal with Wilshere’s suspension and move on.

“We thought the ban was one game and that is why we appealed. It is two, we have to accept it and to swallow it,” he said.

“He was wrong in his reaction, but we are now in a situation where we have to accept it and wait until he comes back and focus on our next games without him.”

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