Mikel Arteta provided an update on the in-form Alexandre Lacazette’s contract as Arsenal prepare to invite Aston Villa to Emirates Stadium.
The hosts sit a point above Friday’s opponents in 12th after banishing a torrid three-game winless run at the start of the season.
Arsenal left it late against Crystal Palace, with Lacazette netting a last-minute equaliser to extend the Gunners’ unbeaten run to six games across all competitions.
On Thursday, Arteta’s focus was on the Frenchman as he offered an update on the former Lyon striker’s future.
“He created a different atmosphere straight away with his energy, with his quality as well and the determination that he showed to change the result,” Arteta said about Lacazette in the Palace game.
“[He had] that belief in himself that he could do it.
“I had no doubts about [his motivation] and if I did I would probably have decided to do something different in the summer if the motivation was just his financial future. It’s not the case with Laca and he’s a really important player for us.
“Anything is possible [regarding a contract extension].”
Villa have endured a mixed start to the 2021-22 campaign as well, throwing away a two-goal lead against Wolves and losing to Tottenham after shocking Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Dean Smith, however, has been satisfised with his team’s progress as he credited Arteta’s work at Arsenal.
“People were saying they were in crisis after the first three games of the season [but they had] games against the league champions and European champions,” Smith said.
“They’ve come back as we all suspected they would. They’ve drawn the last couple of games, so we can take some heart in that.
“We can also take some heart from what we’ve done in the last month in our last four or five games.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored in each of his last three Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium. In total, he’s netted 42 Premier League goals at the Emirates, with only Robin van Persie netting more at the ground in the competition (46).
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
Ollie Watkins scored three of Aston Villa’s four goals against Arsenal in the Premier League last season, with these goals coming from just five shots on target for the striker.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Arsenal had won seven of their nine Premier League games on a Friday before the beginning of last season (D2). Since then, however, the Gunners have lost each of their last two such fixtures at home to Everton (0-1) and away to Brentford (0-2) on the opening day this season.
– Of the 12 Premier League sides to have featured at least 10 times in the Premier League on a Friday, only Leicester (1/12) and Spurs (2/11) have a lower win % in such fixtures than Aston Villa (2/10), beating Spurs 4-1 in December 1997 and Everton 2-0 in August 2019.
– Aston Villa have lost five of their last eight away league games (W3), as many as they had in their previous 17 on the road (W7 D5 L5). Meanwhile, the Villans have never won a Premier League away game on a Friday before (D2 L2).
– Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has won 75% of his Premier League meetings with Arsenal (3/4) – of all managers to have faced the Gunners at least four times in the competition, only Pep Guardiola has a better win rate against them (91%).
– In his 23-minute appearance against Crystal Palace last time out, Alexandre Lacazette had more shots on target (2) and created more chances (2) than any other Arsenal player in the match. The Frenchman is averaging a goal or assist every 46 minutes in all competitions this season (3 goals, 1 assist, 185 minutes played).