Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli are both putting pressure on Alexandre Lacazette right now, and that can only be a good thing.
Normally, when a player picks up an injury or a suspension, the immediate concern is whether they can win their place back again afterwards.
So much of football relies on form and momentum and confidence, it’s always possible you end up losing favour with an absence. Even the big names like Mesut Özil and Petr Cech have seen their places filled after fairly brief injury setbacks at Arsenal recently.
It’s a bit ironic, therefore, that after the few games Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed thanks to his red card, Alexandre Lacazette is the one with increased uncertainty around his position.
Nketiah’s Bournemouth performance
Monday night’s game was the most worrying for Lacazette, as Eddie Nketiah took his place.
Nketiah is almost an Aubameyang-lite in playstyle, basing his game around intelligent movement, pace and clinical finishing. He’ll come deep to link-up play at times, but his preference is to run off the shoulder or find space in the box.
The fact the attack performed so excellently with Nketiah alongside Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli – who was also pivotal – suggests the need for a Lacazette-type in this team isn’t all that great.
Arsenal played some excellent football, created big chances and controlled things well until a late Bournemouth flurry. If they can do that with Nketiah against Premier League opposition, why not Aubameyang?
The attack would surely only become more potent with a world-class goalscorer leading the line.
Everyone knows Lacazette isn’t scoring much at the moment. It’s eight appearances (seven starts) since his last goal, with one assist in that time. All the same, the argument went that he was improving Arsenal’s overall play.
That’s almost certainly true. It wasn’t hard to see how hard Lacazette worked for the team out of possession against Chelsea, or how he contributed positively against Manchester United and Crystal Palace creating chances. Sheffield United less so.
Yet Nketiah, Martinelli and Aubameyang work hard for the team, they link-up with teammates well, and they score too. This shouldn’t be a compromise, Arsenal can’t afford to forgo goals from their first-choice striker entirely.
It’s up to Lacazette to start finding the net
To put it bluntly, there’s no room for sentimentality. Especially not with the current league position. Arsenal need results, and if Nketiah and Aubameyang are the strikers getting you them with their goals, you play them.
If Lacazette scores in a victory at Burnley on Sunday, the same applies. The fans on social media make it all about picking favourites and blindly sticking to them, but Arteta’s only focus should be on winning games.
So Lacazette has to start scoring. With any luck, the pressure on him from Martinelli and Nketiah will drive him to improve. If not, they should just take his place.
The two youngsters playing well can only be a good thing for Arsenal because it takes away the necessity to start an underperforming striker. It proves the system can work without any one individual. It sets the bar for Lacazette to aim for.
Arteta has attacking options again this weekend, for the first time in a few weeks. The players have the next few days to make their case to the coach in training.