Arsenal forward in the shop window again for remaining Champions League games
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Players out of favour must always seize a rare opportunity when it comes their way – and Lukas Podolski did exactly that when Arsenal triumphed in Brussels 12 days ago.
As well as reminding potential suitors that he knows where the goal is, Podolski’s last-gasp winner against Anderlecht has also probably ensured he will be given further chances to prove his capability before the January transfer window opens.
The German forward’s injury-time strike, just eight minutes after he had replaced Jack Wilshere against the Belgian champions, secured a 2-1 victory that few could argue Arsenal deserved.
Moreover, Podolski’s goal may turn out to be the moment that effectively killed the competitive element of Champions League Group D, with the Gunners now sitting pretty in second place.
Had Arsene Wenger’s side failed to win – and, to be truthful, even a draw would have flattered them – they would now be under real pressure from Anderlecht to qualify for the knockout stage.
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But the chances are that, if Arsenal repeat their victory when the Belgians visit north London for the return match on Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm), the group will be all but done and dusted with two rounds of games still remaining.
Borussia Dortmund have belied their faltering domestic performances so far this season when it comes to European football, overcoming all three of their group rivals with ease.
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Given their superior goal difference, it is hard to envisage them failing to top the table unless Arsenal beat them by three clear goals when they visit the Emirates in late November.
Even if that scenario were to occur, the Gunners would probably still need another win at the home of Galatasaray – never a straightforward prospect – to deny Dortmund top spot in the final round of fixtures.
Realistically, then, Arsenal must probably settle for their familiar second place in the group, which increases the likelihood of Podolski featuring in their remaining matches.
“He is frustrated and I understand that, of course, but he is important as well and he showed that,” said Wenger of the 29-year-old. “He will be important in the coming months.”
The reality is that, assuming the Gunners do finish second in the group, their attacking options will be strengthened by the time the competition resumes in February.
Centre-forward Olivier Giroud will be back by then, as will Podolski’s countryman Mesut Ozil, and the likelihood is that the former Bayern Munich man will have ended his two and a half year stay with Arsenal.
Signed from Cologne for £11m in the summer of 2012, Podolski’s first season in England was a successful one as he netted 16 times for the Gunners in all competitions.
He managed another 12 goals last season, despite missing three months through injury but, after playing a minimal role in his country’s World Cup triumph in Brazil, Podolski has struggled for first-team football.
Meanwhile, Wenger – who has steered Arsenal to the Champions League knockout stage for the last 11 years in a row – indicated that he has not given up hope of pipping Dortmund to first place in the group.
“We have learned a lot about Anderlecht and, if we beat them again then we have a good chance to qualify,” added the Arsenal boss. “After that we play Dortmund at home and will see what we can do.”