After his goalscoring cameo against Crystal Palace on Monday night, Alex Lacazette was the centre of attention when the press sat down with Mikel Arteta ahead of tomorrow night’s match with Aston Villa.
Out of contract in the summer, the Frenchman, 30, is able to sign a pre-contract agreement with foreign suitors in January. It remains to be seen whether the striker acts quickly to decide his future or if he keeps his options open.
Having signed for the Gunners in 2017, it seems unlikely that he’ll agree or be offered an extension at the Emirates even though Mikel Arteta remains a big fan of the player’s quality and his dedication to his profession.
Asked about Lacazette’s focus, Arteta said: “I had no doubts about that. If I did, I’d probably suggest doing something different with him in the summer [such as ] when a player cannot find the motivation or is just interested in just his financial future.
“That’s not the case with Laca and he’s showed that being here every single day and that’s why he’s such an important player for us.”
While you get the feeling Arteta wouldn’t mind keeping Lacazette he made clear it’s not as simple as making an offer to the player. He needs to think about the bigger picture, whether that be future incomings or the pathway of others behind him in the pecking order.
“It’s the situation that we have,” said the boss when asked about the deal running out. “We have to accept it. I cannot ask anything from the player, the way he is dealing with that situation.
“It’s not an individual situation, it’s a situation that has a knock-on effect because there are others we’ve had to deal with in the past and still now to see what the best option is going to be at the end of the season.”
He later added: “It’s not just a case of being willing [to offer a deal], it’s about it being possible to fulfil that will and the when.”
While it might feel like it, players running down contracts isn’t a phenomenon that solely affects Arsenal.
“It’s a problem that every club has,” said Arteta. “The contract has the length and they have certain ages and phases in their career. It’s something common that you have to be able to deal with.”
Arsenal were thought to be in talks with Lacazette about a new deal in the aftermath of his ‘player of the season’ exploits in 2018/19. For whatever reason, an agreement couldn’t be reached at the time and with each passing month, speculation about what he does next has grown.
Of course, there is still time to keep the ex-Lyon man. It was put to Arteta that a one-year extension is something that could be used to buy the club more time.
“That’s a strategy that you can use,” he responded. “It’s when you do it, do you do it the year before, do you do it during the season, at the end of the season. There are very different ways.
“Every player acts differently, they need a different level of motivation and have a different level of confidence or reassurance that they have the trust and belief of the club. Every case is single.
“Anything is possible,” he later added.
In the short term, Lacazette’s main focus is getting more game time. In his 23 minutes on the field on Monday, he proved an inspirational figure, almost single-handedly changing the dynamic of the game and the mood on the terraces.
“I think he was able to transmit that energy and that was contagious for the rest of the team and for the stadium,” said Arteta.
“He created a different atmosphere straight away with his energy, with his quality and the determination that he showed to change the result straightaway and that belief that he had in himself that he could do it.”
He added: “He needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He had a great impact as well when he came on against Brighton. He’s a player that since I’ve been here has played a lot. He’s been really important and he will continue to be important.”