Belfast Telegraph

Wenger hopes Podolski stays

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has labelled Inter Milan's interest in forward Lukas Podolski as a "joke" and hopes the German forward stays at the Barclays Premier League club.

Mancini has confirmed to Italian news channel Sport Mediaset that the 29-year-old is "part of a list of players that we are following", with Podolski unhappy at a lack of first-team opportunities for the Gunners this season.

Wenger, however, knocked down those reports, which have suggested a loan deal, as he looks to strengthen the squad, not weaken it when the transfer window opens again in January.

"That is a joke. Inter Milan is not serious," said Wenger at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the Premier League match at Southampton.

"It is nothing serious. They talk, there is only talk."

Wenger is keen for Podolski to remain part of a squad, which has seen attacking options hit by a three-match suspension to Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck having picked up a thigh problem during the win at West Ham on December 28.

"Podolski is a player of Arsenal Football Club and I want him to stay. Apart from that, what it is to be professional is that as long as you are somewhere, you give your best to justify your wages and your love for the club," said Wenger.

"I hope so (that he will still be here at the end of January), yes."

Wenger rejected the notion that Podolski, who won the World Cup with Germany in the summer, would benefit from a loan spell anywhere.

He said: " I don't really doubt in some positions (situations) where players need experience, but that is not the case for Podolski.

"For players who need practice because they are at a very young age, like Yaya Sanogo it is not impossible."

Wenger confirmed Arsenal would look to bring in some cover next month, given the number of injuries suffered to key men, notably in midfield.

"There is a need there, but the right opportunity has to come up," he said.

"To buy (just) to buy is not what we want to do, but if the right opportunity comes up, we will do it."

Welbeck scored the second goal in Arsenal's 2-1 win at Upton Park, but will be assessed ahead of the New Year's Day trip to Southampton.

Forward Theo Walcott could feature having been on the bench following his recovery from a groin problem.

However, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is not just match fit as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury, although Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky should return having been rested.

"Ramsey is not available yet, there is no setback, but it is a bit slower than I expected it to be," said Wenger.

"Because he had a setback last year, we have to be very cautious with his thigh - he was out for three months, so we have to be a bit more cautious than we would like to be."

Wenger accepts it is a difficult balance over the hectic Christmas schedule to keep all of the players fresh and also not lose the dynamic of the team.

"Rotation is a sensitive subject because you can destabilise your team with too much rotation, so you have to find the right numbers of rotating the team," said Wenger.

"Overall, you want to keep the balance of your team and as well refresh sometimes in the positions where players are a bit tired."

Arsenal could move back into the top four above Southampton with victory on Friday, and could close up on Manchester United, whom they now trail by only three points.

Wenger said: "You give your best and if there is a weakness in front of you, you want to take advantage of it.

"I don't know if there will be any weakness in front of us, but what I know is that we can give our best until the end of the season to have a chance to do it."

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