Ian Wright has called on Mikel Arteta to be ruthless and drop Alexandre Lacazette from the Arsenal side if they want to salvage their Champions League dreams.
The Gunners have enjoyed a solid season under Arteta’s guidance. Having spent the best part of £120m over the summer, there were some who doubted the wisdom in Arsenal’s business. Indeed, the captures of Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard – to name three – left many suggesting their squad lacked vital experience.
However, Arsenal have made a mockery of that apparent youthfulness to put in a solid challenge for a top-four finish. They did look in pole position, though two costly defeats – to Crystal Palace and Brighton – have allowed Tottenham to edge ahead of them.
The push, of course, continues for the Gunners and with a crunch game against Spurs to come, all is not lost.
Part of their problem of late has been a lack of efficiency in front of goal. And, as their main striker, a lack of goals from Lacazette has been a particular worry.
The Frenchman was chosen to lead the line in the wake of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s expulsion – and ultimately sale – by Arsenal. His experience, leadership and work-rate appeared just the ticket for Arsenal.
However, Lacazette has just four Premier League goals to his name this season from 25 appearances. And, having only netted once in 2022 – a penalty against Leicester in March – questions have been raised.
Now Arsenal legend Wright also feels Lacazette needs dropping – and wants Gabriel Martinelli to take on a central striking role.
Appearing on the Arseblog podcast, Wright was clear on his reasons why.
Goals are drying up
“We went through a phase where people were saying he’s not scoring. But he was linking the play and Martinelli, [Emile] Smith Rowe and [Bukayo] Saka were benefiting from him and doing their inverted runs in [behind].
“But once that’s been figured out, and other building of play is happening, you still haven’t got your main striker in the places where he can make moves to get half chances to finish.
“When you’ve got a striker that’s not scoring – and he’s not scored for a long time now. I think he’s got four goals this season and two of them are penalties, even the opposition team know.
“They’ll be saying ‘Listen, we’ve got to make sure we stop the supply to [other players] because this guy won’t score’.
“He’s not scoring at the moment. And when I watch Alexandre, his runs towards the near post, his runs to the box, are not dynamic enough for him to beat somebody with a half yard so he can get in front of someone.
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“He’s not doing that work, so what’s happening is we’re not scoring. We actually don’t look like scoring and we haven’t got the kind of players up front who can take a half chance. At the moment, when you see our team, where are the goals coming from?
“People have kind of found out what we’re capable of and what we’re trying to do. It seems quite easy to shut us down in this moment.”
Lacazette is out of contract in the summer and TEAMtalk understands West Ham are among his suitors.
Wright talks up Martinelli as Lacazette replacement
Turning attention to Martinelli, Wright explains how the Brazilian can mix things up in attack.
“Arsenal fans want to see Martinelli playing up front now. Yes, Lacazette gives us some nice link-up play, but now people are finding that out.
“Sometimes when he goes over he’s not getting the fouls as well. So what’s happening is [opposition teams] are using the fact that Laca goes down. The referees are kind of on to that, and they’re not giving the fouls where you want your centre-forward to hold it up. They’re not even giving us those fouls.
“So yes he does link up the play, but I would try Martinelli.”
He added: “I look at Gabriel Martinelli, that guy is f***ing trying man. He’s trying! We saw what he did against Liverpool, he’s such a threat.”
Arteta, meanwhile, has been teased by an opposition coach about how his stubbornness has seen Arsenal lose “one of the world’s best midfielders”.