Lukas Podolski says that he is happy to sacrifice himself for the greater good at Arsenal, even though he knows that he would score more goals if he played in his favoured central striking position. The Germany international, who has been used by Arsène Wenger off the left flank since his summer arrival from Köln, scored with a screaming 25-yard drive in Wednesday's 5-1 home win over West Ham United, his seventh goal of the Premier League season and 11th in all competitions.
Podolski has not made a secret of his desire to play in a central area and Wenger joked after the West Ham game, which lifted Arsenal to within four points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, that he had "plenty of candidates" within the squad to play through the middle. Wenger believes, though, that Podolski's best position is on the left and the player himself said that his priority was simply to help Arsenal to a Champions League finish.
"I think when I play No10 or as a striker I am in this position to score more goals and I can shoot more," Podolski said. "But with the style of the game at Arsenal I do it well on the left side and I am happy to play there. I have played on the left for Köln sometimes and the national team, it is not something special. I've scored seven goals now and have nine assists. It's OK but it's important for me at the end of the season to be in the Champions League."
Podolski took a similar view on the issue of his being substituted: he has lasted the 90 minutes only twice in 26 starts for the club in all competitions. He was slightly defensive when he was asked why Wenger routinely withdrew him. "Ask the boss, I don't know," he said but he argued that it was nothing to do with his fitness. Wenger did say in early November that Podolski was not "used to working at that level of intensity [in the Premier League]" but he predicted he would adapt.
"When you are a footballer, you will not always play 90 minutes," Podolski said. "Sometimes you are not happy but this is not important for me. I fight for Arsenal. There are a lot of great players on the bench and in the squad. The coaches don't change the full-back or centre-back; you change always the positions in the front who create something. You have great players and for me it is not a problem when I am substituted."
The victory over West Ham was a tonic for Arsenal after the league defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea but Podolski, who is finding the competition towards the top of the English league tougher when compared with Germany, maintained that, while the points were welcome, the team needed to find greater consistency.
"It was one game and we have three points, which is important, but we have 15 more games to play," Podolski said. "It is not about saying 'today, Arsenal are back,' because we need more of these games and more of these points. When that happens, I think we will be back in the top four. We must fight. There is enough time to get back in the top four.
"I think it is harder here [in England]. You have tough games and you see in Germany that there is only one team at the front and that is Bayern Munich. The German league quality is very good now, not like five years ago, but I think the Premier League is a little bit better."
Podolski's focus has switched to Saturday's FA Cup tie at Brighton, who knocked Newcastle United out in the third round and are chasing promotion from the Championship. "You always have pressure in the cup. It's the same in Germany," Podolski said. "When you are a big team and you play away against a second- or third-tier team, there is always pressure. We believe in ourselves. It will be tough but, if we play like we did against West Ham, we can beat them."