Arsenal trio need to stand up after Aubameyang transfer – Alan Smith


Alan Smith has discussed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Arsenal exit

Alan Smith has discussed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal exit (Pictures: Sky Sports / Getty)

Alan Smith has urged three Arsenal players to stand up and fill the void left by new Barcelona signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Barcelona confirmed they had signed Aubameyang on Tuesday after the Gabon striker left Arsenal by ‘mutual consent’.

Aubameyang has been one of Arsenal’s most influential players in recent years – scoring 92 goals in 163 appearances – but was frozen out by Mikel Arteta after being stripped of the captaincy.

While Aubameyang will hope to revive his career in the Nou Camp, Arsenal will need to move on quickly as they bid to enjoy a successful second-half to the season and qualify for next year’s Champions League.

But they will have to do so with their current crop of players, having failed to make any significant signings in January, and Smith has urged Eddie Nketiah, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli to put their hands up over the next few months.

‘It should be a chance for Eddie Nketiah,’ the Gunners hero told Sky Sports. ‘You would imagine he will get more opportunities now than he did previously.

‘We will wait and see. It does not seem to me Arteta is at all convinced by him as a starter.

‘He’s done well in the Carabao Cup and has scored goals, but that’s come mainly against clubs in the lower divisions.

‘When he has had the chance from the start in the Premier League, he’s not really convinced that he is somebody that can lead the line.

‘He’s a penalty area poacher and you need a little bit more than that as the striker in Arteta’s system, especially when you are playing through the middle on your own.

‘So, he’s still got plenty to prove at Arsenal but as to whether he can do that in the next few months, who knows.

‘He may be able to do it. He’s obviously trying to keep all his options open and make himself a more attractive proposition for clubs in the summer when he is available on a free transfer.

‘He will not be short of offers, I am sure, but perhaps he has sensed the manager does not really rate him. If that is the case, you would want to get away.

‘It will be interesting to see how it all pans out and if he can perhaps change the manager’s mind.’

On Lacazette, Smith added: ‘He will now have a crucial role to play for Arsenal.

‘He has been in decent form and he has taken on the responsibility as one of the senior members of the team. He has been a really useful asset in the starting XI, despite a few glaring misses here and there.

‘What’s going to happen regarding his future in the summer is also up in the air. It’s another conundrum for the club, but I am sure they are looking at another couple of strikers elsewhere, especially in the event that Lacazette does leave the club.

Gunners forward Gabriel Martinelli could play as a striker

Gunners forward Gabriel Martinelli could play as a striker (Picture: Getty)

‘But before that, he will be an important figure between now and the end of the season as the most recognised centre-forward in the squad.’

Given the shortage of options up front now Aubameyang has left, Smith believes Arteta could look to use Brazilian forward Martinelli through the middle.

He said: ‘It might just be Martinelli’s time.

‘So far, he has been given a chance on the left and he has taken that chance. In order to be given an opportunity to play through the middle you have got to show you are in good form, you are fully fit and you are playing with confidence

‘He has done that so this could be a good time to move him inside. There is precedence there, famously Thierry Henry started on the wing and moved into the striker position to great effect.

‘Arsenal’s formation and forward line can be quite fluid as well with a lot of interchanging of positions with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard so it’s not like he will be positioned through the middle all the time.

‘But it is certainly an option for Arteta and one he should not be afraid to have a look at.’

Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League – two points outside of the top four – with 17 league matches remaining.

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