Wenger denies showing Podolski disrespect during time at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has "completely" denied Lukas Podolski’s claims that he was shown a lack of respect by the Arsenal boss before leaving to join Inter Milan on loan.

Podolski, speaking in an interview with The Sun, said Wenger "did not call or say goodbye," adding: "I don’t need flowers or a kiss from him. But it is about respect, about saying goodbye. For me, respect is important." But, speaking at a news conference on Friday, Wenger had a different version of events.

"I deny completely. I had many conversations with him," said Wenger. "Without my agreement, he couldn’t go on loan."

Wenger said he had not ruled out the possibility of Podolski, who has started a Premier League game this season, returning to the club when his loan deal expired. Another Arsenal player to make the headlines this week has been goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny who was reportedly fined for smoking in the showers after the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat by Southampton.

Wenger would not confirm that the 24-year-old would definitely regain his place — having seen David Ospina replace him for the FA Cup victory over Hull — for Sunday’s game against Stoke.

"I haven’t picked the first 11 yet," said Wenger. "I take everything into account. But I don’t want to talk about that: what happens in our dressing room stays in our dressing room – apart from when it doesn’t stay in the dressing room! I like Wojciech as a person — when he makes a mistake he stands up and admits it, he has contributed a lot to the good image of Arsenal FC and he’s a guy who learns from his mistakes."

Newspaper reports on Friday said Wenger had laid down the law to his players, informing them that anyone repeating Szczesny’s indiscretion would be demoted to training with the youth team for the rest of the season.

"I don’t need to make a big fuss of that – every club has its internal discipline and rules and it doesn’t necessarily need to be public," said Wenger, who also made light of an interview given by Szczesny’s father which was highly critical of Wenger and Arsenal’s defenders. "I don’t listen to the fathers, the mothers, the grandmothers or the grandfathers," joked Wenger.

Wenger revealed that Germany international Mesut Ozil was available to return for the first time since suffering a knee injury in October, while Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey have also returned to training. And he suggested striker Yaya Sanogo would be sent out on loan in January, with his preference being for the 21-year-old to stay in the Premier League.