independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Lukas Podolski: Arsenal are making it too easier for other teams

GERMAN striker Lukas Podolski accepts Arsenal cannot continue to gift teams a head start if they are to fight their way back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

Arsenal were behind after just six minutes against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium last night, when a comedy of errors at the back allowed Luis Suarez to sweep home. When Jordan Henderson waltzed through the Arsenal rearguard once again to knock in a second goal on the hour, there looked only one outcome.

However, Arsenal again showed their superb attacking qualities as first Olivier Giroud headed in a free-kick before Theo Walcott blasted an angled drive past Jose Reina to level, and the home side then had chances to go on and take all three points.

Manager Arsene Wenger felt his side were "too nervous" at the back, and Podolski understands the collective need for firing on all cylinders right from kick-off.

"It is a problem in the last matches that we are losing a goal and then coming from behind," the German said.

"We must start strong from the first minute and score the first goal.

"In the last few weeks that has always been the problem, that we have to fight and come back.

"However, when you are 2-0 down and you come back like against Liverpool it feels like three points, and this is the way we have been playing recently."

Arsenal remain sixth, four points behind Tottenham and three off fifth-placed Everton in the race to secure Champions League qualification once again.

Podolski, though, insists the team have what it takes to overhaul their rivals and even catch third-placed Chelsea, who have an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.

"We must fight for the Champions League places and this is our focus. We want third place and we have a lot of matches to play," he said.

"We are in the FA Cup and the Champions League, but the focus must be on the Premier League.

"Of course we wanted to finish first, but we lost a lot of points in the first half of the Premier League and now the difference is too big.

"All the other teams are really strong so we must fight in every game."

Giroud has impressed in recent weeks, scoring his fifth goal in three appearances last night.

Walcott feels there is plenty more to come from the France international, signed from Montpellier in the summer.

He told Arsenal Player: "It was a fantastic touch for [my goal] and his goal was what he is known for.

"Olivier has been on fire in recent weeks and he is great to play with."

Arsenal lost full-back Kieran Gibbs to a thigh injury just before half-time, which is expected to sidelined the England defender for up to a month.

With just Andre Santos available as cover, Wenger was considering bringing in another defender, with Marseille youngster Nicolas N'Koulou a reported deadline day target.

Arsenal have also been keen to add another quality forward, but Wenger last night played down suggestions a late swoop could be pushed through for Barcelona's David Villa. West Ham's defensive midfielder Mohamed Diame has also been linked with Arsenal.

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