Arsene Wenger has hinted that a lack of fitness is the reason why Lukas Podolski has played very little football for Arsenal this season, hinting that the German forward returned from the World Cup this summer suffering from fatigue.
Speaking at his post-match press conference after last night's 2-1 Champions League victory over Anderlecht, the Gunners boss claimed the 29-year-old has not been at the required level to cement his place in the starting line-up, despite the fact he played only a bit-part role in Brazil.
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Podolski returned to pre-season training late along with international team-mates Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, but has featured far less frequently than the other two players, even though they were both regular fixtures in Joachim Low's side.
There had been suggestions that the £100,000-a-week star would look to leave the Emirates Stadium in January if he continues to be overlooked by Wenger, but his match-winning contribution in Belgium on Wednesday could help push Podolski back up the first-team pecking order.
The former Cologne star came off the bench to net a last-minute winner at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, and drew praise from his appreciative manager soon after the final whistle.
"We know Podolski can always score," the 65-year-old was quoted by Arsenal.com. "He is frustrated and I understand that of course. But he’s important as well and he showed that tonight and he will be important in the coming months.
"It took him a while to get back to a good physical level [after the World Cup] and now he’s nearly there."
Podolski's first start of the 2014/15 campaign came in the 2-1 defeat against Southampton in the Capital One Cup third round in September, but he didn't do much to convince Wenger that he was deserving of a more regular role after spending much of the match looking disinterested and wandering around aimlessly.
Perhaps that's another reason why the player has been restricted to just three substitute appearances in the Premier League this term, with each of those cameos totalling up to just 54 minutes of action.
However, Podolski will be hoping that his last-gasp European goal can help to kick-start his season, and judging by Wenger's comments his future in north London is already looking significantly more positive.
As for fellow forward Joel Campbell, he too has been restricted to a watching brief for the majority of the season so far, and despite impressing for Costa Rica in the World Cup this summer it's difficult to see where he'll fit in, especially with the likes of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud still to come back into the team.
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