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English Premiership

Podolski set for strike chance against QPR

PODOLSKI-SCORELONDON, England, May 3- Arsene Wenger will hand Lukas Podolski the chance to establish himself as Arsenal’s central striker, dealing a painful blow to Theo Walcott who is desperate to lay claim to the position.

Wenger has been forced to rethink his strike options after Olivier Giroud was handed a three-game ban as the Gunners’ top four challenge reaches a crucial stage.

And after asking Podolski to lead the line against Manchester United last weekend, the manager is set to keep faith with the Germany international for the trip to face relegated Queens Park Rangers.

Wenger’s side lie fourth, two points ahead of Tottenham and a point behind Chelsea but having played a game more than their London rivals.

That means they must win at Loftus Road if they are to increase the pressure on the other contenders for the remaining two Champions League places.

And Wenger believes Podolski — who normally starts on the left but has been in and out of the side in the second half of the season — is the best option when it comes to leading his side’s attack.

“He has the qualities (to play in the centre) because he is a good finisher,” the manager told Arsenal Player.

“He has a good technique and because we have a game based on very quick combinations I believe he can be a part of that. Overall I am convinced in the coming games he will show it.

“At the moment, yes (I will play Podolski in the middle). A definite decision has not been made but if there is an opportunity then there is a good chance I will do it.”

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Walcott was employed in a central role earlier in the season but has since reverted to his regular right wing spot.

But the England international — who struck his side’s goal in the 1-1 draw with United to take his tally to 19 for the season — has made no secret of his desire to move inside.

Walcott said: “I played a few games there and I would like a few more towards the end of the season.

“I got a lot of my goals when playing up front, so I have shown what I can do and it is up to the manager to do what he sees is best.

“I am sure another chance will come. I set a 20-goal target for the season but the biggest goal for me is to help Arsenal finish third or fourth.”

Yet while Walcott is chasing his personal milestone, he believes Arsenal’s defence holds the key to top four success.

QPR’s failure to beat Reading last weekend confirmed they will start next season in the Championship and prompted inquests into the club’s failure to stay up despite spending heavily.

Harry Redknapp, the manager, has confirmed he will remain at Loftus Road but admits changes will have to be made, while chairman Tony Fernandes has made no attempt to disguise his anger at the performances of some players.

But Malaysian businessman Fernandes insists he will remain at the club.

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He said: “You have a lifelong commitment in your marriage and we kind of feel that way with QPR — that we’ve got to carry on and realise this dream.

“It’s not easy. Many people said to me ‘why did you buy QPR and not a bigger club?’ And I said ‘it isn’t really us. We like to build things’.

“You buy Liverpool, you buy a club that’s had lots of success, you’re buying someone else’s success.

“We never expected to be relegated this season but you learn and you become stronger and nothing we’ve experienced has killed us.”

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