Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal took a risk in delaying contract talks with Alexandre Lacazette until the summer – with the captain now revealing he has opened discussions with other clubs.
Lacazette’s deal expires at the end of the current season and the 30-year-old currently looks set to leave the Emirates Stadium.
Speaking to Canal Plus earlier in the week, Lacazette said he was “in discussions with a lot of clubs”, adding he was “missing” playing in the Champions League and that he had “never cut contact” with Lyon, who he left to join Arsenal five years ago.
The comments could not come at a worse time for the Gunners, who face London rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening with their Premier League top-four hopes floundering.
Arsenal have now lost their last three games – to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton – and sit sixth ahead of their short hop across the capital.
Asked if he was taken by surprise by Lacazette’s remarks, Arteta replied: “Well he doesn’t need to tell me what he does in his own life but he has, we have discussed that and he is entitled to do that – then he has a duty to do his best here.
“His contract situation allows him to make the decision about his future. We have expressed clearly what our intention is – to speak in the summer once we know where we are, about what we are going to do in the future together.
“And for the rest, I just want him fully focused on his duty, which is now defend Arsenal in the best possible way, like he has done all the time he has been with us. That’s why he has been wearing the armband of this football club, that’s a big reason.
“The contracts start and end with the expiry date that you have agreed on that day that you put the pen down.
“Then you have to deal with the consequences with that and that’s the reality of the contract that he has, and the commitment and the duty that he has with the football club.”
Lacazette is unlikely to feature at Chelsea after testing positive for coronavirus and Arteta admits Arsenal may have also missed the boat on attempting to keep the France striker at the club.
“It is the agreement that we made with him, that was our position and our position remains the same, that is what we are going to do,” he said.
“The risk of that happening, it was always there since the moment we made that decision, then it is up to him. It is not up to us or him it is up to both parties.”
Arteta would not be drawn on the reasons why the club wanted to postpone talks until the summer but conceded whether Arsenal qualify for the Champions League or not will have an impact on what they do in the transfer market.
“Champions League brings, first of all, the club much closer to where we want and to play in a competition that has a huge history in relation to our club,” he added.
“Secondly, obviously it improves every situation with the sponsor, financially, expectations, the capacity to grow our players and expose them into a different dimension of a competition and this is where we want to be.
“It is a game-changer. The Champions League pushes you there with the best teams in Europe and we definitely want to be there.”
With Lacazette a doubt, Eddie Nketiah could once again lead the line.
The England Under-21 international is also out of contract at the end of the season and has turned down the chance to sign fresh terms.
Nketiah also spoke out on Tuesday about his lack of first-team opportunities, but Arteta was pleased to see the comments.
“He is right to be upset, that is what we want from the players who haven’t had the minutes,” he said.
“Especially Eddie, because if there is a player in that dressing room that deserves more chances that was for sure Eddie.
“It is not about pressure to play him, it is trying to put a team there that can win football matches and you believe that has the best possible chance to win it.
“Then, just pick the players regardless of the situation. We could have opted for a completely different approach and played him even less, or don’t give him any opportunity and don’t put him in the squad.”