Martin Keown has been full of praise for Alexandre Lacazette for how he has stepped up at Arsenal in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Frenchman was in fine form as Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals of the Europa League, scoring twice as he netted from the penalty spot, before rounding off the 4-0 victory against Slavia Prague with the fourth goal on the night in the quarter-final second leg.
That took his tally for the season to 17 goals in 38 games, with four in his last two matches for the Gunners after a brace at Bramall Lane in Arsenal’s 3-0 win against Sheffield United on Sunday.
And Keown says the striker is proving his worth to Mikel Arteta and Arsenal with his performances and leadership on the pitch, adding that he has stepped up as a senior figure without captain Aubameyang, who has been in hospital with malaria.
“I think he [Lacazette] is really, really important,” Keown said, speaking on BT Sport after Arsenal’s win in Prague.
“[Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang now, we’ve been told he has malaria, we wish him well. Maybe that’s why he looked a little bit off-colour and wasn’t playing his usual football.
“But you want [Alexandre] Lacazette in and around there. The best example he shows the youngsters, you’ve got [Folarin] Balogun and [Eddie] Nketiah coming through, it is his technique, the imagination there [for the fourth goal]. He fakes to shoot, rolls his foot over it, opens the angle out and slots it home beautifully. What a great example that is.”
And Keown feels that Lacazette is proving a point, with speculation over his future continuing, having been linked with a move away last summer.
A move failed to materialise and Lacazette has been a key player for Arteta in recent weeks, although his future is once again the subject of speculation ahead of the summer transfer window, with his current deal set to expire in June 2022.
“He is a player, now 29 years of age, who is increasingly important for the young group, with Aubameyang not available,” Keown added.
“He just tucked that [penalty] away and it was never in doubt. I think he does a really good job with all of those youngsters around him, he just leads by example with his performances on the pitch at the moment.”
football.london understands discussions have yet to take place over a new deal for the experienced frontman, with manager Arteta repeatedly stating that any talks will begin in the summer.
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And Arteta recently gave an update on his situation as he spoke of how pleased he was with the contribution of Lacazette, who is now the club’s top goalscorer this season.
“He’s got a contract with us,” Arteta said last month.
“He played really well the other week. It’s exactly what we demand him to do. I’m really happy with him and the discussions about his contract will happen soon and we will see what happens.”