Lukas Podolski could make his long-awaited return from injury in Arsenal’s crunch Premier League meeting with Manchester City on Saturday. The Germany forward recently returned to full training having been out since tearing a hamstring in the second leg of a Champions League playoff against Fenerbahce in August.
While he wasn’t taken on the trip to take on Napoli on Wednesday night, Podolski could be included in the squad to face title rivals Manchester City. The 28-year-old has spent most of his for Germany and Arsenal playing on the left, but given Arsenal’s lack of options up front he could well be used, at least in the short term, as an alternative to Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman has started in all-but one of Arsenal’s 20 matches in the Premier League and Champions League this season and appeared to show the effects of his heavy workload in the 2-0 defeat to Napoli. Nicklas Bendtner made his first Premier League start for the Gunners in over two years last week, and scored in the victory over Hull City. Yet, in such an important game as it will be at the Etihad, Giroud looks set to start again.
It remains to be seen if Wenger will be able to call upon Bacary Sagna for the match against a side who sit six points behind Arsenal in the standings. The right-back has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. Carl Jenkinson has filled in, but with the 21-year-old still looking like a work in progress, Wenger will doubtless be keen to have the experience of Sagna at his disposal. However, the Arsenal boss’s previous comments suggest Saturday will come too soon.
Arsenal’s injury worries are slowly clearing up, with just three longer-term victims still on the treatment table. Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo are due back next month, while Abou Diaby is sidelined until March at the earliest.
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Update (December 13, 10.30 a.m. ET): In his pre-match press conference Wenger has confirmed that Podolski is available for selection against Manchester City, but suggested that his return would be delayed.
“He is available,” Wenger said, according to Arsenal.com. “I feel he is still a bit short to go into a match of that level of intensity but after this weekend I will consider him to be available.”
Sagna, however remains a major doubt.
“The main doubt we have is about Sagna, who will have a test [on Friday] and after that I will make the decision about whether I take him with us or not,” he explained. “I am optimistic but it's my nature.”