Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on Alexandre Lacazette after the Frenchman’s fine run of recent form for Arsenal.
The 29-year-old is the Gunners top scorer this season with 17 strikes and has found the back of the net 12 times since Boxing Day and continued that fine form with a second consecutive brace in the 4-0 victory over Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-final second leg.
Far from just being a goal scorer though, Lacazette has been hailed for his tremendous leadership abilities which have helped youngsters like Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to impress this season.
Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League game against Fulham on Sunday, Arteta was keen to laud the role the Frenchman is playing in his side’s good recent run.
“Key because in big moments and in key matches you need players and senior players who have this experience to make a difference for you,” said the Spaniard.
“For me in his style and his development, even though he’s 29, 30 years old, he’s on the right path because he’s ready to learn, he’s doing things in a much better way than before and he really glues the team together.
“That’s a quality that’s not easy in a striker and he’s got it.”
Thursday’s victory in Prague was important for Arsenal as they were able to book their place in the Europa League semi-finals to set up a mouth-watering reunion with Unai Emery and Villarreal.
On a personal level though, the game was important for Lacazette to bounce back after missing two key opportunities in the first leg at the Emriates.
Arteta was also keen to highlight the strength of character this took from the Frenchman and praised his resilience to come back and deliver when the Gunners needed it most.
“It shows the personality that Laca is that he missed two big chances in the home game and then you have to see that reaction,” he said.
“That reaction could be with some fear, or some doubt or feeling a little bit guilty, and the other one is to have a strong personality and react and say ‘ok now I’m going to put them in the back of the net.’”
“He’s done that consecutively in two games. He’s been really efficient and his momentum continues, the form that he’s in continues and he’s really important for the team.”
Lacazette’s impressive run of form presents an interesting dilemma for Arteta as he prepares his squad for next season.
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With rumours that Folarin Balogun is set to extend his contract with Arsenal very soon, it seems as though the Frenchman – who has just one year remaining on his own deal – could be on his way out of the Emirates come the summer to provide a pathway for the Hale Ender into the first team.
The 29-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Roma and several other high-profile suitors.
But with his current form and important role within the Gunners young dressing room, Arteta and technical director Edu could well be forced to re-evaluate their decision come the end of the season when contract talks are reportedly scheduled to take place.