Lukas Podolski the luxury item Arsène Wenger struggles to keep happy

Mertesacker Podolski Giroud

The problem when an eight-figure transfer fee is paid for a striker with 108 Germany caps and 44 goals is that he will expect to play more often than not.

Lukas Podolski expects to play for Arsenal more often than not but it is not down to a sense of status-based entitlement.

The 27-year-old believes he is good enough, particularly as it has been Gervinho who has kept him on the substitutes' bench for the past three matches. Podolski has started only one of Arsenal's past 11 – he was unavailable for two of them because of injury – and it is no surprise to learn that he has grown frustrated and asked himself whether he has a future under the manager, Arsène Wenger.

Podolski likes Arsenal, his team-mates and the new life he has made in London after his £11m arrival from Cologne last summer but his feelings about his position in the pecking order have become an issue. Even Wenger said he could "of course" understand Podolski's frustration at not starting matches since the beginning of February, apart from the ill-starred Champions League last-16 first-leg against Bayern Munich, when he scored but played poorly.

Podolski made a difference when he came on against Norwich City, getting into dangerous positions, rattling the crossbar, playing a part in Olivier Giroud's goal and scoring Arsenal's third himself. It was his 14th of the season and, with Gervinho more miss than hit, Podolski could reflect on having advanced a claim to replace him on Tuesday for the visit of Everton.

But so did the fit-again Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wenger's other substitutes, who helped to break Norwich's resistance. The visitors would argue that the officials played the key role, with the assistant referee Richard West's decision to award the late penalty for Kei Kamara's tug on Giroud, which Mikel Arteta converted, proving the turning point. Amid the angst there was consolation for Norwich: play like this and they will stay up.

Wenger's selection for Everton will be intriguing and, with Walcott long established in his thinking, Podolski could be disappointed. It was, though, interesting to hear Wenger reveal he had used Podolski as a central striker in training of late, which is the player's preferred position, as opposed to left-wing, where he has generally featured.

Wenger talked up the "luxury" of being able to call such talent from the bench and he might revel in the fierce competition for places as the battle for a Champions League finish reaches its climax. He also praised Podolski's "quality" and "great attitude".

Chris Hughton was unusually outspoken, venting his anger at the officials, but he did accept that his players had lost their focus after the penalty. "I'm almost as frustrated that we didn't show composure to see the game out at 1-1," the Norwich manager said. "It's how we respond and I am absolutely certain that we will get a good response."

Man of the match Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Powered by article was written by David Hytner at the Emirates Stadium, for The Guardian on Sunday 14th April 2013 23.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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