Soccer

Mikel Arteta may have hinted at first transfer victim for Arsenal summer spending spree

Arsenal: Lacazette left wounded by Xhaka tackle

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta unsurprisingly rang the changes for the visit of Manchester City today – but there was one notable absentee from his starting XI. Alexandre Lacazette has been an unused substitute for the last two matches against Leeds United and Benfica. His non-inclusion in the side against Leeds ended a run of seven straight Premier League starts, where he had scored three goals.

Arsenal’s best hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League is undoubtedly by winning the Europa League.

So not many would argue with Arteta’s decision to rest a few ahead of Thursday’s last-32 second-leg tie against Benfica in Athens.

Arsenal should have beaten Benfica in Roma last week but could only come away with a 1-1 draw.

Kieran Tierney has been named in a starting XI for the first time in over a month against City, as he attempts to regain full match sharpness before the second leg.

Centre-backs David Luiz and Gabriel have been rested, as has Emile Smith Rowe, Dani Ceballos and Cedric Soares.

But despite the host of changes, Lacazette was only named on the bench.

Arteta instead decided to bring in Nicolas Pepe out wide, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again in the central striker role.

Bukayo Saka kept his place despite suggestions he may be rested with Thursday in mind.

And the decision does not look good for the future of Lacazette at the Emirates.

The Frenchman’s contract is set to expire at the end of next season and there have been no discussions over a renewal.

Arteta wants to continue his squad rebuild in the summer and therefore could look to raise funds through the striker’s exit.

Overall, Lacazette has been a slight disappointment since his £46.5million arrival almost four years ago.

He is yet to score more than 14 Premier League goals in a single campaign, and is unlikely to do so this term having netted just eight so far.

Speaking last month, Arteta insisted talks with Lacazette will not take place until the end of this season.

“We will talk in the summer and make a decision then,” said Arteta.

“We have not talked [now] about anything related to his contract.

“I am delighted with the way he has performed because he is scoring, has the form and energy at the moment, so he needs to keep doing that.”

However, Arsenal continue to be linked with potential replacements for Lacazette, including Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard.

And Arteta may well be looking at the future without Lacazette with his recent team selections.

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