He was gradually eased back into the squad as December progressed and came on as a sub away to West Ham on December 26th. He scored in that game and I thought he might get a run out away to Newcastle a few days later, but he was an unused sub. He got his chance in the next game though after Olivier Giroud picked up an injury against Newcastle and he was chosen to lead the line at home to Cardiff.
He didn't have the best game against Cardiff though and the team only got the goals to win it after Nicklas Bendtner had replaced him. With Giroud still missing and Bendtner now injured too for the FA Cup game at home to Spurs a few days later Podolski was again an unused sub as Theo Walcott led the line impressively and Arsenal won again. Unfortunately Walcott went off with an injury late in that game and his season is now over. With Bendtner out for a month after picking up that injury in the Cardiff game it means Podolski is the only alternative to the fit again Giroud as a central striker for Arsenal.
With that in mind surely Arsene Wenger should want to see him get some game time in so he can regain any sharpness he may have lost in his long injury layoff. Podolski can play as a central striker if he's required to, but his best performances tend to come when he is playing on the left hand side of the attacking trio. He scored plenty of goals from that position last season with Walcott scoring plenty from the opposite side. Walcott's injury will mean Arsenal need to find someone else to make up for the goals they will miss from him and they need to get Podolski back into the team and scoring goals too.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been out for even longer than Podolski after picking up an injury in the opening game of the season at home to Villa and he made his comeback a couple of days ago with an appearance for the Arsenal under 21 team. The boss has said he is ready to play against Villa despite the fact that he is only just back and has said both Chamberlain and Podolski are in the same position with regards to their returns from their injuries. Surely Podolski was back in full training with the first team almost a month ahead of Chamberlain and must be a lot closer to being fully fit.
If he was fit to play from the start against Cardiff a week and a half ago what has changed. I know Chamberlain is a lot younger than Podolski and would heal faster as a result, but it doses look like the boss is more than a little unsure about using Podolski. There have been question marks about what he offers to the team defensively when he plays on the left, but the same can be said of other players in that position. I'm a huge fan of Santi Cazorla but the same questions have been asked of his defensive abilities when playing on the left and he has played in that role quite often recently.
There is huge competition in the Arsenal midfield at the moment and it probably suits to put Cazorla on the left of the attacking trio, but it's not his favoured position. He favours coming infield from that role which quite often leaves Arsenal a little shy on the left hand side. While Walcott has been adding goals from the right hand side recently it has been noticeable how few goals have come from the left.
I'm not so sure how much trust the boss has in Podolski but the team needs to have more goal scorers in it and he is most certainly one of those. If he misses out to accommodate a central player in his wide role it might not be the best thing for the team. It's not a matter of picking the perceived best players and then fitting them into roles as that can affect the shape and overall performance of the team.
If Arsenal are going to continue to challenge on all three fronts they will need a fit again Podolski to score as many goals as he can with Walcott's season over and Bendtner out for a few more weeks at least. It has to be remembered that Giroud is hardly prolific although he does offer a lot to the team and Podolski could quite easily be the player to benefit from his lay-offs and link up play. There is of course the possibility of Arsenal bringing in another striker during this transfer window, but that's only a possibility.
If they don't add a striker the goals Podolski is capable of scoring could be very valuable to the team and he needs to chance to get himself back to match fitness. He won't get that sitting on the bench and he has been back in full training for a month at this stage. For me the team needs Podolski in it at the moment and it needs to have the option of a match sharp Podolski to play when called upon. He will not regain that match sharpness on the bench and I think he has to play against Villa.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.