Arsenal verdict: Stand-in skipper Lacazette sets tone with work rate and Gunners will thrive without axed Aubameyang

EVEN a missed penalty couldn't spoil a sensational centre-forward's display by Arsenal's stand-in skipper Alexandre Lacazette.

Like on Saturday during the 3-0 victory over Southampton, the Frenchman wore the armband amid disciplinary issues surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.


With the Gabonese star now having been formally stripped of captaincy duties and out of the first-team picture, possibly for good, Lacazette has the opportunity to shine as a leader.

And he did just that against West Ham this evening, setting the tone even as his side got off to a sleepy start.

Much of the first-half of tonight's clash could have sent fans nodding off, with both sides completely nullifying each other.

Just as you wondered whether the importance of this match to both top-four contenders may spoil the occasion, Lacazette showed a captain's influence by livening up proceedings.

The Frenchman worked tirelessly up front on his own, fully occupying Issa Diop and Craig Dawson by using his body intelligently and making good runs.

His energy appeared to rub off on his team-mates, as the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli sparked into life.

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While Aubameyang may have been popular off the pitch, it could rarely be said that he ever had this kind of galvanising effect on it, irrespective of his goal hauls in previous years.

Lacazette got Arsenal off to the perfect start in a decidedly livelier second 45, dropping deep to devastating effect before swivelling and playing a perfect pass to send Martinelli through on goal.

The Brazilian did the rest, slotting beyond Lukasz Fabianski to finally break the stodgy Hammers' resistance.

Lacazette was later brought down in the box by Vladimir Coufal, with the Czech defender being shown a second yellow card and given his marching orders.

Arsenal's No9 subsequently saw his spot-kick stopped by former Gunner Fabianski, but that didn't dent his enthusiasm.

By the time he was substituted in the 89th minute he had earned a standing ovation from the Emirates crowd, which will hope to get used to such hard-working displays from their centre-forward.

LEARNING FROM PAST MISTAKES?

In a glossy feature in tonight's matchday programme, Lacazette outlined his case to be the Gunners' next captain full time – even suggesting that Tottenham skipper Hugo Lloris is one of his main influences.

But with the 30-year-old's contract set to expire, Arsenal must decide whether they want to renew it.

On the back of performances like this, the Gunners would be left red-faced if they let him walk for nothing.

But the same could have been said of Aubameyang in 2020, and even Mesut Ozil two years earlier.

Regardless of whether he is retained, Lacazette will at least offer a tremendous stop-gap until the end of the season, as Arsenal look to finish in the Champions League spots for the first time since 2016.

And if he continues to perform like this, he won't be short of offers come January 1…

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