A wretched first-half performance from the Gunners saw them squander another chance to deliver a telling blow in the fight for European qualification. Whilst the team’s inconsistency continues to frustrate Arteta, the Spaniard also has a pleasing question to solve at present.
Should Lacazette now be the focal point in attack?
Alexandre Lacazette Staking Claim for Starting Spot After Fine Performance Against West Ham
Alexandre Lacazette Has Continued to Come up Trumps for Arsenal in Recent Weeks
After scoring the penalty that gave Arsenal all three points in the north London derby, Lacazette came up trumps again, heading home Nicolas Pepe’s cross to salvage a draw eight minutes from time.
Deployed as the main man in Arsenal’s frontline, Lacazette had a fine outing in East London. It was his volley, which deflected off Tomas Soucek into the net, that paved a way back into the game for the visitors.
Clinical when opportunities came his way, the 29-year-old is setting an example to his team-mates that lapses of concentration and individual errors must be avoided at all costs if Arsenal are to keep pace in the race for continental football next season.
The exclusion of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the matchday squad against Spurs for lateness was a move from Arteta that could have kicked up a huge fuss. Entrusted with the armband in Aubameyang’s absence, Lacazette was not a frequent threat against Tottenham Hotspur but delivered when it mattered to spare his manager’s blushes.
By netting in successive Premier League games, Arsenal’s No.9 has reached 11 league goals this season and matched his tally from 2019/20, per Opta. He is also making a case for regular selection, having responded well to being dropped from the starting line-up for clashes against Burnley and Olympiacos.
Gabriel Martinelli’s Return to Action Sees Arteta Spoilt for Choice in Attack
The absence of Gabriel Martinelli from Arsenal’s team in recent weeks prompted heavy speculation over the Brazilian’s current status at the club. Rumours swirled that he had been deliberately dropped, rather than eased into a comeback after sustaining an ankle injury in January.
Consecutive nine-minute cameos against Olympiakos and West Ham were a timely reminder of the energy, desire and different dimension that Martinelli brings to Arsenal’s attack. Combining a rapid turn of pace with a fearless determination to run directly at defenders, as he demonstrated in the final moments against Olympiakos by creating a decent chance for Aubameyang, the drive of the young Brazilian makes Arsenal a far more fierce animal in the final third.
Previously undroppable, Aubameyang must follow the standard set by his teammate Lacazette and finish the chances he is presented with. If the Gabon international continues to misfire, then Martinelli may be presented with another chance to prove his qualities.
Aubameyang still has 15 goal involvements so far this campaign yet, whereas Arteta was dependent upon his goalscoring qualities last term, others are contributing from elsewhere.
In notching up 12 goals and assists in all competitions to date, Bukayo Saka has continued to show why he is one of the most promising youngsters in Europe. Fellow Hale End graduate Emile Smith Rowe has interchanged roles to great effect with Martin Odegaard, which has given Arsenal an added flow to their offensive transitions.
If Aubameyang was previously the sole marksman, he is now the lead archer, ably supported by a troop of young guns in Arteta’s potent attacking legion.
Arsenal now have supply options in abundance. The dearth of creativity before Christmas looks to have been addressed and the return to form of Lacazette means this side can progress with the luxury of two consistent goal scorers, should Aubameyang manage to set his pre-game alarm on time.
With time to reflect over the international break, Arteta’s concerns are more likely to be concentrated towards the other end of the pitch. The concession of three goals in the opening half an hour on Sunday means the Gunners have now gone 12 games without a clean sheet, last keeping one in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United at the end of January.
A balance must also be found. Too often have players been overambitious when building out from the back, leading to unnecessary individual mistakes to allow the opposition back into the game.
As a result, a side who still look unsure of themselves are indebted to Lacazette, whose cool, calm and clinical presence acts as a foundation for Arsenal to build upon in their quest for a top-six finish.