Alexandre Lacazette has stepped up for Arsenal and with too many question marks over Mikel Arteta’s other options, it would be a foolish gamble to cash in and let the Frenchman slip away this summer
- Alexandre Lacazette kept up his fine form with two goals against Slavia Prague
- The Arsenal frontman hit a purple patch at a crucial period of the campaign
- However, with Lacazette’s deal up next summer, his future at Arsenal is unclear
- Mikel Arteta revealed that the club will hold talks with the ace at the end of term
- Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at Lacazette and what may lie ahead for him
As Alexandre Lacazette hit a purple patch earlier this month, he provided a promising glimpse of the role he may still hold at Arsenal despite his uncertain future.
The Frenchman wheeled away twice in celebration against Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic as Arsenal breezed into the Europa League semi-finals and tonight’s clash with Villarreal.
His improved form in front of goal over recent weeks, despite it having been slightly marred by a number of agonising misses and a hamastring issue, has helped propel Arsenal even closer to a date with destiny in Gdansk.
Alexandre Lacazette kept up his superb form with a brace in Arsenal’s win over Slavia Prague
Lacazette may find himself departing this summer, however, with a number of clubs primed to pounce. The dilemma now handed to Arsenal is a significant one – with Mikel Arteta able to cash in or keep him in his rebuild.
With six goals in his last seven games, Lacazette, who turns 30 next month, is doing all he can to make the conundrum all the more difficult for his coach.
There can be no denying his new-found importance this term. The absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been hospitalised with malaria, has allowed Lacazette total freedom to lead the line.
Lacazette stepped up once again with his two goals and has become Arsenal’s new talisman
Against Slavia, the former Lyon ace was heavily involved in the fluid build-up play that saw Arsenal impose their dominance on their opponents – and his brace saw him become the club’s top scorer in all competitions.
His tally of 17 goals is one positive to take away from a season largely shrouded in disappointment and frustration. And the flowing move which led to Arsenal’s fourth goal, which was tucked away by Lacazette, underlined his status as a match winner.
The two legs of the last-eight tie were the perfect microcosm of Lacazette’s fortunes in the penalty area, perhaps.
The tides looked as though they had very much turned against him at the Emirates earlier this month. Lacazette failed to hit the target, having raced through one-on-one, and was vociferously savaged.
The 17 goals netted this season by Lacazette (centre) makes him Arsenal’s current top scorer
Lacazette was guilty of a poor miss in the first leg against Slavia Prague but has bounced back
ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE’S 20-21 NUMBERS
(Stats from all competitions)
Having stolen back the ball well just over the hour mark, the frontman was afforded all the time and space in the world to pull away from two defenders and pick his spot in the far top corner.
To his dismay, and the anger of the Arsenal fanbase, his strike whistled through the air and smacked off the woodwork.
The return leg saw that miss firmly buried in the past – although both halves of Lacazette’s frustratingly hot and cold performances had been laid bare for all to see.
It is this inconsistency that may see Arsenal sell up at the end of the season. Roma and Sevilla are understood to have joined Atletico Madrid, who have held a long-term interest in him, in keeping tabs on the situation.
Arteta revealed in January that a decision over Lacazette, and a potential new deal, will only be discussed in the summer.
‘We haven’t talked about anything relating to his contract,’ he said. ‘I’m delighted with the way he is performing, the goals he is scoring and the form and energy he is in at the moment. He needs to keep doing that.’
Mikel Arteta (left) has insisted talks over Lacazette’s (right) future will take place this summer
The gauntlet has been well and truly laid down for Lacazette, and he has responded in turn by unearthing a rich vein of form at the business end of the campaign.
The prominence handed to the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and Nicolas Pepe has visibly benefited Lacazette. Their off the ball movement and relentless energy has helped shape the perfect conditions for the frontman to flourish.
Arteta’s project may still hang in the balance, but the head coach’s preferred style of play, with its rapid interchanges and creativity oozing from his strike force, points towards Lacazette being able to continue his fine form beyond this term.
For this reason alone, it may be worth it for Arsenal to take the punt and retain his services for at least another year.
Lacazette has benefitted from Arsenal’s quick off the ball movement to take on an integral role
Lacazette’s commendable tally has certainly raised the question, and Arteta’s open demands for him to continue leading from the fore suggests that the France international’s short-term future is in north London.
‘I’m really happy with him and the discussions about his contract will happen soon, and we will see what happens,’ Arteta has said.
However, football is an ever-changing landscape, and a drop in form at such an integral time may still see club and player ultimately decide to part ways. In this case, Arteta will have to run the rule over his other options very carefully indeed.
Club captain Aubameyang has not come close to replicating his peaks from last season and has been dropped for form and ill-discipline by a frustrated Arteta.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s (right) absence and poor form has allowed Lacazette to flourish
Worryingly, there are scant indications that Aubameyang will be able to burst back into form – although, rightly so, his bout with malaria has led to a focus on ensuring he returns back to full health before anything else.
Lacazette too is only ‘in contention’ to face Villarreal after a missing the Everton defeat with a hamstring issue.
Gabriel Martinelli, meanwhile, is undoubtedly destined to steal the headlines time and time again at the Emirates and, since his injury comeback, has dazzled.
He has time on his side, too, although inconsistencies in his game must be accounted for due to his tender age.
Whether the youngster is able to step straight in take on a prominent role next season, perhaps even as a first-choice forward, remains to be seen.
Therefore, boss Arteta may prefer to lean on the tried and tested experience of either Aubameyang or Lacazette.
Lacazette has proven himself a reliable performer with Aubameyang hit with below-par form
Gabriel Martinelli is another option up top for Arsenal but it would be a risk to let Lacazette go
ARSENAL’S 2020-21 TOP GOALSCORERS
1. Alexandre Lacazette – 17 goals
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 14 goals
3. Nicolas Pepe – 10 goals
4. Bukayo Saka – 7 goals
5. Eddie Nketiah – 6 goals
It is the latter who has proven himself to be the more reliable performer as the season has progressed.
Eddie Nketiah has spoken about his frustrations at being frozen out by Arteta, having not started a top-flight fixture since December, and there is unlikely to be a route back to regular first-team action handed to him at his current club.
Fellow starlet Folarin Balogun has attracted admiring glances from several clubs across Europe but signed a new long-term contract just this week.
The 19-year-old’s potential looks limitless, but it will still be quite some time before he is capable of being entrusted to hit the back of the net often at senior level.
As demonstrated, there are arguably question marks over all of Arteta’s current options, which highlights the gamble it would be to offload Lacazette.
The two statements from him against Slavia Prague left Arsenal supporters with ‘goosebumps’ and they are unlikely to want to see him leave after a four-year stay.
His powerful gesture before kick-off, which saw him take the knee directly in front of the other team in Prague and stare them down, was by far and away the most impactful of the two.
Lacazette sent out a powerful message after taking the knee directly in front of Slavia Prague
But Lacazette was also awarded the captain’s armband for the crunch tie in a tournament where triumph brings with it a place in next season’s Champions League, a move which revealed all about his seniority and importance in Arteta’s ranks.
As his shots rippled the back of the net, and Lacazette let out bellows of emotion, he took a giant leap closer to sealing his spot at the club for another season.
With his current form, and reliability amid a sea of uncertainty at Arsenal, it would be foolish to allow him to slip away.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article