Huge blow for Arsenal as star striker gets injured
Arsene Wenger has seen his Europa League plans take a blow after losing Alexandre Lacazette for up to six weeks.
Lacazette underwent knee surgery on Tuesday morning to solve what was an ongoing issue and even though the operation was described as a success it comes as a serious setback for Arsenal.
Even though Lacazette had lost his place to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the France striker would have started in the Europa League with the new signing cup-tied.
It would have also allowed Lacazette some much needed game time in Europe to help get the £52m striker’s confidence up after a disappointing start to his Arsenal career.
Wenger said: "He will be out for five weeks. It's a massive blow for us."
Arsenal sold Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez in January and, despite the £56m arrival of record signing Aubemeyang, they are left with few options in attack in the Europa League.
It could leave Danny Welbeck set to lead the attack at Ostersunds on Thursday in what has become an even more important game for Wenger and his future.
Wenger will take an otherwise full strength squad to Sweden and, having originally viewed the competition as a “high risk” strategy, it may now be the most realistic passport back into the Champions League.
The Arsenal manager’s position is coming under increasing scrutiny and knows another season out of the Champions League would be very damaging for the club’s long term prospects.
Wenger’s current contract expires in 2019 but there is a growing feeling that if Arsenal’s season does end badly then that could come under review this summer.
There is nothing set in stone in terms of Wenger leaving because Arsenal could yet turn things around and finish in the top four, win the Carabao Cup and also progress in the Europa League.
But Wenger himself knows that they finish well off the pace and go into a second year without Champions League football then it could give the club a serious decision to make.
Arsenal have a good run of fixtures after the Carabao Cup final and then facing Manchester City four days later in the Premier League as their next seven games look winnable and could put them back in contention for the top four.
But as they are now eight points off Chelsea in fourth place, the Europa League is likely to take on greater importance and Arsenal’s players believe it will take on more priority if they can get past Ostersunds.
It is a strong line-up this year with Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and AC Milan but the winners go into the Champions League and getting back into Europe’s top competition would surely safeguard Wenger’s future.
The club have backed him heavily in the transfer market and remain fully committed to Wenger after signing Henrik Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while they would look to strengthen the keeper, centre half and holding midfield positions this summer.
But they may yet have to look around for a new manager and the club’s new structure with head of recruitment Sven Mislintat having a big say will leave them in a position to go for big names.
Germany boss Joachim Low has been linked despite having a contract until 2020 because of the German connection while Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim has also gained admiring glances for his style of football and management.