A Contract Extension or Summer Departure for Alex Lacazette?
With Alexandre Lacazette entering the final year of his contract this summer, will the forward be moved on, or will he sign a new deal with the Gunners?
Alexandre Lacazette joined Arsenal in July 2017 from Lyon, for a then club record fee of £46.5m. The Frenchman enjoyed a relatively successful debut campaign in North London, scoring 14 and assisting 5 in 32 Premier League games. The 2018-19 season was equally successful for our number 9, bagging 23 goal contributions in 35 league appearances (13 goals, 10 assists). This impressive return saw Lacazette named as Arsenal’s 2018-19 Player of the Season, as voted for by the fans. However, since Aubameyang’s arrival at the Emirates in January 2018, Lacazette has often played second fiddle to the Gabonese captain.
But with Aubameyang struggling for form this season, Laca has re-taken centre stage. The 29 year-old is staking a serious claim to make the centre forward position his own. No Arsenal player has more goal contributions this campaign than the Frenchman, who has 16 to his name (13 goals, 3 assists). Lacazette also (realistically) holds Arsenal’s best minutes per goal ratio this season with 152, ahead of Aubameyang (180), Nketiah (223) and Pépé (262). I say realistically as Folarin Balogun holds an impressive record of 37 minutes per goal, but both of his strikes came in a total of 61 Europa League minutes, spread across 4 mini cameos.
Despite these impressive stats, a summer of uncertainty awaits Alex Lacazette. Will the Frenchman still be a Gunner at the start of the 2021-22 campaign, or will he be kicking off the new season in pastures new? Let’s assess the potential options facing the forward.
The one gaining the most momentum is that Laca will leave the Gunners this summer. As already mentioned, the striker is entering the last year of his contract in July; if Arsenal are unwilling to offer him a new contract, selling the Frenchman seems the most plausible option. If a new offer is not on the table, selling Lacazette to raise funds for fresh blood is imperative. Especially given the current financial difficulties the club is facing. With Lacazette turning 30 at the end of May, Arteta may not want to be stuck with another ageing striker, and look to move him on this summer. In terms of potential destinations, Atlético Madrid and Roma are said to be interested in the 29 year-old, with the Serie A outfit reportedly set to make an offer in the upcoming window.
The second, and least likely option, is to let Lacazette enter the final year of his contract. The Gunners have a history of letting talented players run down their contract and leave for free, so the same could apply to Laca. Given the financial difficulties the club are facing, they may not have the means to bring in a replacement, such as Odsonne Edouard. Likewise, there are doubts over the futures of Folarin Balogun (who could leave for free this summer) and Eddie Nketiah (who can’t even make the bench at the moment). Therefore, Arteta may be forced to keep the 29 year-old to bolster Arsenal’s attacking options in the 2021-22 campaign.
Finally, Arsenal could offer Alex Lacazette a new contract, most likely short-term given the forward’s age. Laca has been in impressive form of late, playing a key role in the recent comeback against West Ham and scoring the winner in the North London derby. Occasionally wearing the armband, Lacazette is one of the senior figures in the Arsenal squad, and is often credited with helping Arsenal’s youngsters settle in the first team. Speaking in January about his breakthrough, Emile Smith-Rowe said that the Frenchman “helped me so much” and “gives me so much confidence.” Maybe the influence Lacazette has in the dressing room will play a part in him being offered a new deal?
If this does happen to be Lacazette’s final season in an Arsenal shirt, holding the Europa League trophy aloft in Gdánsk, two days before his 30th birthday, seems like a great way to bow out, don’t you think?
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