Arsenal vice-captain Per Mertsacker has backed Lukas Podolski over his lack of first-team football, insisting that the unsettled forward can still prove an important contributor under Arsene Wenger.
Podolski, 29, has made just one start in nine appearances so far this season, after a rumoured departure failed to occur over the summer, with September’s 2-1 Capital One Cup defeat to Southampton his lone full outing.
Linked to several clubs during the final weeks of the transfer window, the subsequent £16 million signing of Danny Welbeck from rivals Manchester United on deadline day has since made life even more difficult for the German World Cup-winner, and caused him to express on-going angst about his status in north London.
Nevertheless, Mertesacker is well aware of his compatriot’s qualities, having labelled him the club’s best finisher just last month, and can understand his frustration at being relegated to a bit-part role.
“I think anyone who doesn’t get enough time on the field would be dissatisfied,” Mertesacker told ESPN.
“Lukas Podolski is a player who is used to playing a lot, so this is a new role for him. But he’s there in the training sessions, giving as much as he can, including today.
“I’m sure that we’ll need him, we simply have a big squad, which means that someone is always going to have to sit on the bench. He still has a good attitude and offers his opinion where he can.”
His current contract not set to expire until the summer of 2016, Podolski has been vocal in recent weeks about wanting to hold walks with Wenger over his future, telling Kicker: "I like London, I like the club. But I don't like the situation. I am not a clown who will just sit out his contract in the stands.
"I need to seek talks with Arsene Wenger. I want a fair chance. Just let me play. And when I have played 10 games and have not convinced [Wenger], I'll gladly join the end of the queue again."
With a return to the Bundesliga mooted, Podolski has since revealed that Wolfsburg are interested in offering him an escape from the Emirates Stadium, although Schalke and former club FC Cologne have both ruled out making potential winter bids.
Regardless, if he continues to be confined to the Arsenal bench over the coming months then it’s hard to envisage him remaining at the Premier League club past the mid-season window.