Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may have given his clearest indication yet that he is planning for life without Alexandre Lacazette.
The Gunners boss opted to go with a front-three of Willian, Aubamayeng, and Nicolas Pepe this weekend at Manchester City.
On first look, that might seem like a reasonable selection decision. However, on closer inspection, and as criticised by former Manchester United striker, Andy Cole, it was Willian who was tasked with filling the central striker role.
The Brazilian acted as a false nine of sorts at The Etihad. But, he was largely ineffective, failing to really get on the ball and not registering any sort of meaningful attempt on goal.
And the decision to exlude Lacazette, who was linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan in the summer, may be a sign that Mikel Arteta is indeed looking at life beyond having the Frenchman.
Lack of faith
As if the decision not to include your most experienced striker and a player who is on a reported £182k-a-week (Spotrac), wasn’t strange enough, the move which brought Lacazette into the game was even weirder.
The 29-year-old seemed to be operating in a deeper role when he came on. It was almost bizarre to see, in all honesty, with Lacazette clearly not comfortable with being tasked to almost play as a number ten.
Of course, there may be nothing in this from Arteta. Maybe he wanted to just try a different way of playing? Maybe he sees Willian in that forward role as being able to cause issues? Indeed, Pep Guardiola has used ‘false nines’ in his managerial career, so perhaps Arteta is looking at that?
But, regardless, it wasn’t a good look for Lacazette. A player who, in fairness, has started the season pretty well, to not even get a look in during one of the biggest games of the season so far, is a somewhat baffling move by the Arsenal boss.