LONDON: Arsene Wenger is pleased to welcome back Lukas Podolski for the home game against Premier League title rivals Chelsea; Arsenal’s manager may hope that Podolski’s reappearance signals a change of fortunes on the squad front after a damaging week.
First Arsenal crashed 6-3 at Manchester City last Saturday week then, this past weekend, they saw the league leadership taken over by Liverpool.
The City debacle was costly in other ways: central defender Laurent Koscielny suffered a bad cut to a knee and Jack Wilshere has been suspended for two games for a gesture to Manchester City fans.
Hence the sight of Podolski back in contention is good news since he will also ease the pressure over the holiday games on Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman is starting to tire after shouldering the attacking burden alone ever since the ex-Koln man tore a hamstring against Fenerbahce on August 27.
Wenger said: “Podolski is available. That is a big boost because he scores big goals in big games.”
Arsenal also hope that the return to squad duty of Podolski will re-energise Mesut Ozil for whom the City defeat was his worst game since his arrival in north London.
Ex-England striker Michael Owen is one observer who has not joined the general chorus of appreciation for Ozil.
Owen said: “Despite people constantly telling me that Mesut Ozil is world class, his inconsistency means that we only see occasional glimpses of real quality. His odd good performance is usually followed by half a dozen poor ones.”
Arsenal do not need another poor display from Ozil. The Gunners slipped to third over the weekend and are only two points ahead of Chelsea even though the Blues, as manager Jose Mourinho has conceded, have been misfiring badly in attack.
Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic returns from suspension, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta reverts to left-back with Ashley Cole dropping to the substitutes’ bench.
Chelsea have already won at Arsenal this season, in a League Cup tie in October. That took to nine the sequence of matches in which Wenger has tried and failed to beat Mourinho and meant that Chelsea, under a string of managers, have lost only twice in their last 11 visits to Arsenal.