It’s the news that Arsenal fans were dreading to hear.
On top of Kieran Tierney, Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all being ruled out through injury or illness, Alexandre Lacazette, the man who has put Arsenal on his back in recent weeks, is now too out on the sideline as the club confirmed on their official website that the Frenchman suffered a hamstring injury against Fulham.
With games in the Premier League coming thick and fast for the Gunners, as well as a UEFA Europa League semi-final on the horizon, losing Lacazette, the club’s top scorer this season, is the last thing the club needed.
Yet this is Arsenal Football Club. These things just seem to magically happen year-upon-year with no real sense or reasoning other than to infuriate supporters just when things start looking up.
Lacazette’s injury means that going into Friday night’s Premier League encounter against Everton, Mikel Arteta will have to turn to youth to start at striker against Carlo Ancelotti’s side. However, this could well be a blessing in disguise for the club, and a good indicator as to who the Spanish manager sees as the player to lead the line going into the future.
For the fixture against the Toffees, there are three viable candidates as to who could start in the lone striker role for Arsenal.
Eddie Nketiah, who seems the most likely player to start given that he has featured for the Gunners often since Arteta’s appointment; Gabriel Martinelli, who is back to full-fitness after months of injury problems; and Folarin Balogun, who The Athletic reported at the start of the month had agreed to a new four-year contract with the Gunners.
All three players are under the age of 21, are comfortable playing in the striker position, and would all relish the chance to start against Everton in a game that could well play a huge role in Arteta’ decision as to who takes the position in the future.
Indeed, Nketiah has just two years remaining on his current contract and has this week been, again, subject to reports that West Ham are interested in signing the England U-21 captain. However, his injury-time equaliser against Fulham last weekend could see that attacker get the nod over Martinelli, who is yet to play in the striker role under Arteta, as well as Balogun, who has not started a game for the Gunners and has played just 76 minutes of first-team football in his entire career.
Friday night will be an interesting night for Arsenal both on and off the field, with protests over the ownership of the club set to take place before kick-off outside the Emirates Stadium, yet for the three young attackers in the Gunners squad, this match against Everton will be a huge opportunity for them to show their stuff and to impress Arteta with Aubameyang and Lacazette both unavailable for now.