Mikel Arteta maintains that Arsenal always understood the risks of parking contract talks with Alex Lacazette until the end of the season but he maintains that it’s well within the rights of the striker to explore interest from other clubs.
In an interview with Canal Plus that aired over Easter, the 30-year-old, who will be a free agent in the summer, revealed that former club Lyon, amongst others, had approached him and that he harbours ambitions of playing Champions League football again.
Having failed to tie down Lacazette on several occasions over the last few years, Arsenal changed tact last summer and made it clear to the player they are happy to play a waiting game until resources and their own needs in the attacking department are more clearly defined.
“His contract situation allows him to make the decision about his future,” said Arteta when asked about Lacazette’s comments.
“We have expressed clearly what our intention is, to speak in the summer once we know where are about what we’re going to do in the future together.
“For the rest, I just want him fully focused on his duty which is now to defend Arsenal in the best possible way, like he’s done all the time he’s been with us. That’s why he’s wearing the armband of this football club, it’s a big reason.
Lacazette inherited the armband in January when close friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed the club. Given the player became, in the same month, eligible to talk to foreign suitors underlined the respect he commands from the coach and his teammates. It doesn’t look like anything has changed on that front.
“He doesn’t need to tell me what he does in his own life but he has and we discussed that and he’s entitled to do that,” said Arteta. “He has a duty to do his best here.”
He added: “The contracts start and end with the expiry date that you have agreed and on the day that you put the pen down, then there are consequences with that. That’s the reality that he has, the commitment and the duty that he has with the football club.”
Asked about the decision to hold off talking to a player who cost £46 million, the boss continued:
“It’s the agreement that we made with him, it’s our position and the position remains the same, this is what we’re going to do. The risk of that happening is always there in the moment we made that decision. Then it’s up to him, it’s not about us or him, it’s about both parties.
“It’s not about me, it’s about we, as a club and the decisions that we made with individuals, the collective and how we plan things. We made that decision to have a clearer idea of what we want to do in the summer and that’s what we decided.”
Whether a lack of clarity about his future is affecting Lacazette on the pitch is hard to say. The attacker has just six goals to his name this season and looks a shadow of the player he once was. In that respect, it feels like finding an upgrade shouldn’t be too hard.
Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to sealing transfers and negotiating new deals. Should Arsenal reach the Champions League, the boss admits it would make life far easier for the club.
“Champions League brings the club much closer to where we want, to play in a competition that has a huge history and relation to our club.
“Secondly, it improves every situation, with the sponsors, financially, the expectations, the capacity to expose our players and expose them into a different dimension of competition.
“This is where we want to be. It’s a game-changer, it puts you there with the best teams in Europe and we definitely want to be there.”