Mikel Arteta must ignore what happens between now and the end of the season and axe Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette in the summer, claims Paul Merson.
Arteta has drawn praise for the way in which he has handled problem players within his squad. Matteo Guendouzi was farmed out on loan to Marseille and appears on course to turn that move permanent in the summer.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang endured his own disciplinary issues, and was ruthlessly axed in the January window.
Whether those two exits will be to Arsenal’s long-term benefit, only time will tell. Nonetheless, Arteta’s hard-line approach is setting an example as to the standards required from Arsenal players moving forward.
One player who could follow the aforementioned pair out of the Emirates in the summer is Lacazette.
The Frenchman, 30, has not experienced disciplinary issues of his own. However, his current situation closely resembles those of Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil in past seasons.
Merson wants brutal Lacazette decision
Lacazette has been a capable performer since arriving from Lyon in 2017, though his single season league high of 14 goals suggests he never hit top form.
At age 30, his best days are likely to be behind him. And with six months remaining on his current contract, Arsenal are at a crossroads. There has been talk of a new two-year contract in the works. Though a free agent exit could yet materialise, with former club Lyon a contender to re-sign the forward.
Arsenal handed bumper new deals to Ozil and Aubameyang when faced with this dilemma in the past. Looking back in hindsight, both those decisions were mistakes.
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Now, writing for Sky Sports, former Gunners favourite Paul Merson has urged Arteta to learn from Arsenal’s past errors. To do that, Merson wants Arsenal to move Lacazette on in the summer – even if he hits top form over the next five months.
Merson wrote: “Now, if Alexandre Lacazette goes and gets 10 goals before the end of the season, they can’t get lazy and just give him a new deal worth £250,000-a-week, thinking it might be his season next season.
“However, for me, Lacazette has had his time at Arsenal. Whatever he does between now and the end of the season, he’s had his chance at the Emirates Stadium.”
Arsenal have “drawn a line in the sand” – Merson
Arsenal are poised for a trophy-less season and are facing an uphill struggle to secure fourth spot.
Nonetheless, Merson explained why he believes Arteta is steering Arsenal in the right direction after the club drew “a line in the sand” over Aubameyang.
“Arsenal have had a clear out,” added Merson. “They didn’t get European football for the first time in I don’t know how many years, and they’ve put their foot down.
“If you keep on doing the same things, you get the same results. That’s the same for anything in life. That is what Arsenal have been doing for too many years now, and finally, they’ve drawn a line in the sand.
“They changed it all up by getting rid of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and other players, who are not going to get you anywhere near the top four of the Premier League or even winning the league.
“It now might take time, but they have started now and that’s a massive bonus. They have properly started the rebuild now.”