Arsenal: Arteta says Lacazette is glue that holds team together
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Mikel Arteta will be forced to shuffle his deck for Arsenal’s clash with Everton on Friday night. In a week that has been dominated by off-the-field headlines, the Gunners will be desperate to return to action.
The Super League debacle has been an unwelcome distraction ahead of what will be a pivotal run-in.
Along with a Europa League semi final, Arsenal know they must finish strongly if they are to have any chance of sealing a European place by virtue of league position.
A win over the Toffees at the Emirates would see Arteta’s side leapfrog their opponents and heighten hopes of a successful finish to the season.
However, if they are to pick up all three points, they will need to do it without their two first-choice strikers.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is recovering after contracting malaria on international duty and although he could return to training this week, Friday will come soon.
As for Alexandre Lacazette, the hamstring strain he picked up against Fulham, will see him sat on the sidelines.
It’s a blow that gives Arteta a headache, but one that could help solve a long-term problem within his squad.
In the absence of his senior pair, it is likely the Spaniard will turn to youth, as he has elsewhere in his starting XI this season.
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Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun are both in line for a chance against Carlo Ancelotti’s side, with the former netting the equaliser against Fulham last time out.
But Balogun, who has agreed to a new contract at the club, could be a more likely option, after Arteta admitted he was pushing ‘anybody’ in the first team, for a place in the line-up.
On his new contract, Arteta told Sky Sports: “It’s really important because it shows that he has enjoyed the time he’s been training with us and that’s why he wants to stay with us.
“He sees an opportunity here to have the career that he wants.”
With Lacazette’s future also in doubt, 19-year-old Balogun could state his case for a more extended role next season and his manager believes he has the kind of one-off quality that could see him flourish in the top-flight.
“He’s a very, very hungry boy,” he continued. “He wants to do everything. He wants to practice more every single day.
“He has unique qualities as a striker – his speed and the way he holds the ball. He’s a real goal threat and he works tremendously hard.
“He will be pushing anybody in our first team to get his spot and that’s exactly what we want.
“He’s got the chance; now it’s time for him to prove himself.”
If he does, it could potentially save Arsenal millions in the transfer market this summer.
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