Was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s banishment the best thing that could have happened to Arsenal?
The Gabon striker has been well below part this season but was widely accepted to be Arsenal’s best centre forward just a few weeks ago. Eddie Nketiah wants to leave, Folarin Balogun is still hugely untested at the top level and Alexandre Lacazette is approaching the end of his contract.
With Aubameyang barred from first-team action, things could have gone downhill so quickly for Mikel Arteta, but Lacazette is making sure it doesn’t.
Despite appearing to have one foot out the exit door at the Emirates, Lacazette has kept his focus solely on his performances and he pulled out a sublime showing in Saturday’s 4-1 trouncing of Leeds that should have Arsenal asking more questions about his contract.
Lacazette’s frailties in front of goal have been clear for a while now, but what made this outing so impressive was how the Frenchman appeared to accept his weakness and instead focused on allowing others to shine.
Similar to Roberto Firmino at Liverpool, Lacazette’s performance was all about intelligence. He didn’t care about scoring a goal, but rather dragging Leeds’ centre-backs out of position to allow the youngsters around him to prosper.
With Robin Koch sticking to him like glue – whoever came up with that tactic at Leeds deserves a clip round the ears – Lacazette created some gaping holes in the box into which Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and substitute Emile Smith Rowe partied all night long.
Recognising that he could do more for the team by not actually touching the ball, Lacazette showed a humility and selflessness that will have resonated with Arteta at this of all times.
The boss wants players who are committed to the cause and prioritise team success over individual accolades, and that’s exactly what Lacazette did here.
Does this mean Arsenal should throw money at him to get him to sign on? No, of course it doesn’t. He’s approaching 31 years old, doesn’t score a lot of goals and relies on movement which will get slower and slower as Father Time creeps up on him. This next decision must be calculated.
As Aubameyang has proven, throwing an enormous salary at an ageing striker isn’t always the smartest move, and you can guarantee Arsenal will have learned that lesson. Well, you’d like to think so anyway.
If an agreement can be reached over an affordable, club-friendly deal, Arsenal should be all over it. Lacazette still has something to offer this side for now.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of literally every striker on the books at Arsenal, Arteta could do with some calm and consistency. Lacazette can provide that, and a contract extension should not be ruled out.