Morning, it’s Friday, we’re playing tomorrow and all the focus can now shift away from internationals to the football that really matters.

With players only arriving back in dribs and drabs yesterday, it’s hard to know if there are any injury/fatigue issues for us to worry about for the visit of the Mugsmashers tomorrow evening, but as far as Mikel Arteta was aware when he spoke to the press yesterday there wasn’t anything significant to worry about. There are some doubts over Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, and that’s about it (although that’s plenty if you ask me).

There were some interesting snippets from the press conference – beyond the dimwitted nonsense about whether Sergio Aguero should have a statue (relevance to Arsenal v Liverpool? Zero, even if the Arteta/Man City connection is obvious). It was interesting to hear the manager talk about other clubs being interested in Alexandre Lacazette, and what the future might hold for him.

As you’d expect, Arteta publicly backed his player and spoke about his form and contribution of late. After what he did against West Ham, you keep the guy’s confidence high by talking positively about him, even if it’s just 4 goals in his last 15 games. To be fair, if you widen that out, since the Chelsea game on December 26th it’s 8 goals and 3 assists in 18 games, and there have been aspects of his performances and link play which deserve credit too.

Arteta was asked about Interlull links to Sevilla and Roma, and said:

I always like it when people speculate about our players because that means they are doing well, and they are getting attention. I think he’s been in really good form for months now. He’s sustaining that level, he’s scoring goals and he’s providing the team with something different as well.

But he insisted that any decision about his future would be made in the summer, when we have a clear picture of what next season brings in terms of European football (or not):

Everything is related to where we are, how much we win and where we are playing next season. There are no exceptions, and we all need to be clear with that.

I’ve seen people suggest we give Lacazette a one year extension, and that doesn’t make much sense to me. It just kicks the can down the road. This time next year we’re in the same position with a senior player with just 12 months left on his contract, with a decision to be made. Not to mention that player is now a year older, and I suspect that would make them more inclined to just stay for that final season.

Laca turns 30 at the end of next month, and right now is the time to make the decision. Sure, the market might not be ideal, but that’s true for every club. We can’t keep giving new deals to 30+ players whose value diminishes year on year to the point where we get nothing for them. So for me, with the need to rebuild and to generate as much income as we can in the market this summer, the obvious answer is to sell and reinvest in a younger player.

Spending more on wages and seeing someone we paid €50m for go on a free just doesn’t make any sense, and his is exactly the kind of situation we have to do better in. We must learn to sell at the right time, rather than hang on too long, and while I think Lacazette’s contribution this season has been valuable at times, a big part of the job Arteta and Edu have to undertake is put right the bad habits we’ve seen manifest themselves too often in the transfer market. We’ve invested the 30+ money into Aubameyang (and Willian to a lesser extent, plus the looming Luiz decision needs to be taken into account), and for me we can’t afford to pass up what Lacazette could generate – even in a depressed market.

Arteta’s comments about how there are ‘no exceptions’ when it comes to dealing with whatever we end up with this season suggests there’s an understanding that we need to use our resources as best we can, and even with Europa League or, fingers crossed to the max, Champions League in 2021-22, you’d have a hard time convincing me that committing more wages to a player who will essentially leave for free is a sensible idea. Let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, it’s been a bit disheartening to read some comments online (I know, I know) about Lucas Torreira. If you weren’t aware, his mother died of Covid-19 this week, and he’s apparently told his agent he doesn’t want to play in Europe anymore and wants to come back to South America to play for Boca so he can be closer to his family.

I get Arsenal is not a charity, and we need to get as much as we can for every player we’re looking to move on this summer – and I think Torreira is one of them. However, the man just lost his mother, who died at the age of 53, and in the throes of that intense grief and loss, he’s emotional and sad, and that’s not really a time for clear thinking. It’s not a time to criticise him for what is a completely understandable desire to be with his family, particularly as he’s been away from them since 17.

I don’t think Boca could pay what we want, but he still has to play out the end of the season and complete his unhappy loan spell at Atletico Madrid, and his future can be sorted out in a couple of months time. He’ll have had time to think and process things a bit more, but right now, if you’re giving him a hard time about the sentiments he expressed this week, you need to remember he’s a human being first, and a footballer after that.

Also, take note of the fact his mother was just 53. Be careful, be safe, do all the stuff you know you should do, even if the light at the end of the tunnel is growing because of vaccinations etc. Mind yourselves and others.

Right, time for a brand new Arsecast, and I’m joined by Tim Stillman to talk about the big news from the Arsenal Women this week, the decision of Joe Montemurro to leave at the end of the season. What next and how? We also talk about Mikel Arteta’s squad management decisions between now and the end of May. There’s also pre-Liverpool chat with Neil Atkinson from the Anfield Wrap.

All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below. Enjoy the show, Patreon preview pod later and we’ll look ahead to the Liverpool game in more depth tomorrow.

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