Granit Xhaka wants more people to understand just how important Alexandre Lacazette is for Arsenal on and off the pitch as uncertainty remains over the forward’s future at the club.
Lacazette netted his first goal since Boxing Day on Sunday when he slotted home a second-half penalty to seal a 2-0 win over Leicester that saw Arsenal climb back into the top four.
Lacazette’s spot-kick was only his sixth goal of the season and he has not scored from open play since December 11, but Gunners midfielder Xhaka is keen to highlight the 30-year-old’s value to the side beyond his strike rate.
“In the end, people want him to score. People only see if players score,” Xhaka said to Premier League Productions.
“But people sometimes don’t see how important he is for us, not only on the pitch but as well off the pitch. On the pitch, he is an amazing player and he understands the game so good with the quality he has.
“I hope now after this three, four, five, six weeks they (people) understand how important he is for us.”
The France international’s long-term future in an Arsenal shirt is far from certain however, after manager Mikel Arteta said before the Leicester game that a decision would be made about the former Lyon striker at the end of the season.
Whether or not Lacazette is still at the Emirates next term, he has been playing a major part in Arsenal’s impressive push for a return to the Champions League for the first time since Arsene Wenger was in charge.
He has started each of the last six matches which have seen Arsenal pick up five successive wins since drawing with Burnley.
That form has left the Gunners in a strong position in the race for a top-four finish, lying a point above fifth-placed Manchester United and with three games in hand on the three teams immediately below them.
Arsenal’s unbeaten run faces its biggest test on Wednesday however when they host red-hot Liverpool, and Xhaka knows they will probably need to find an extra gear.
“We are winning, that’s now five in a row, and we now have a big game on Wednesday against Liverpool. We knew this would be a key week for us before the international break,” the Switzerland international said.
“And let’s see on Wednesday, we have to maybe perform better (than against Leicester).”
Leicester had also been in fine form heading into Sunday’s game, winning five of their previous six games in all competitions.
However, they are having to mix Europa Conference League football alongside a Premier League campaign and manager Brendan Rodgers admits that the short turnaround between fixtures has been a challenge for his Foxes squad.
“Very much so (it is difficult),” said Rodgers, whose side fell behind against Arsenal to an early Thomas Partey header.
“Physically it’s tough for us, that and having so many players out throughout the season. That depth of quality probably isn’t in our squad that lots of teams in Europe, especially the top end of the league, would have.
“But I will say that the players give everything, we just have to somewhere along the line try and recover players.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.