Alex Lacazette’s first goal since early December sparked joyous celebrations from his teammates who recognised the torrid time the Frenchman had been having in the final third recently.
The strike, scored deep into stoppage time to put a gloss on yesterday’s 4-0 win against Newcastle, was Welbeckian in its mishittedness but that didn’t matter to the attacker, on as a late substitute, who celebrated with all the gusto of a man given a last-minute reprieve from death row.
After the game, Arteta, explained why he’d preferred to start Eddie Nketiah over Lacazette but was quick to recognise the importance of the goal for last season’s player of the year.
“The message is very clear, whoever trains like they do and I see that they have the abilities, the quality and their hunger like he’s done to perform today, he’s got a chance to play,” said the boss.
“Today I decided to play Eddie because he has been training in a phenomenal way, I decided for him not to go on loan and to stay and as well I have to support that decision.
“Laca has been playing all the games with me, he hasn’t scored and I told him the decision why and he accepted really well. I said ‘come out and you will score a goal’, he did.
“I’m so pleased not just for the goal, but for the reaction of all his teammates and the staff. They showed how much they love him and the reason why is because this guy works his balls off every day.”
Arsenal have plenty of football coming up in the rest of this month so having Nketiah as an extra option alongside Lacazette and Aubameyang could prove to be a masterstroke. Nketiah’s goal against Bournemouth before the winter break took his tally for the season to six (five scored for Leeds on loan) and he was unlucky yesterday as he hit the bar.