Perhaps the ultimate bromance in football right now, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have an almost inseparable connection both on the pitch and off it.
The prolific goal-scoring duo have openly admitted their enjoyment at playing alongside each other, but in the grand scheme of things, Gunners boss Unai Emery may need to sacrifice one for the greater good of the team.
At the start of the season, the Arsenal manager was receiving calls left, right and centre to play the two together, with the Spaniard evidently reluctant to try and pigeonhole them in.
The former PSG boss has always tended to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation at his previous clubs whenever possible, and getting both Lacazette and Aubameyang, two strikers at heart, into the same team would involve some kind of juggling act.
In the end, Emery heeded the demands of the Arsenal faithful, flitting between both as an out-and-out front two, or with the Aubameyang off the left, and his French teammate through the middle. The experiment was by and large a success during the first half of the campaign, but with the season now at its business end, the time may have come for the double act to be broken up.
We play much better football with Lacazette than with Aubameyang but Auba is unparalleled as a goalscorer so 路♂️
— JB™️ (@gunnerpunner) February 24, 2019
After the former Lyon forward’s sending off against BATE Borisov in the first leg of his side’s Europa League clash, it was up to Aubameyang to lead the line in the second, and the Gunners were noticeably more potent going forward. With the 29-year-old up front, Emery could field an attacking trio of Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the mercurial Mesut Ozil in behind, and so it was no surprise to see the side look far more creative and threatening.
And then with Lacazette back for the game against Southampton at the weekend, Emery dropped Aubameyang back to the bench to give the Frenchman the nod, and he duly repaid his manager’s faith with a goal and starring performance.
The two back-to-back victories also saw Arsenal record their first consecutive clean sheets since shutting out Huddersfield and Qarabag in December; with just one striker playing up front, there was a better defensive balance against Southampton, with Iwobi and Mkhitaryan showing a willingness to track back – something not obviously associated with Aubameyang.
With the Gunners firmly in the mix for the Premier League’s top four, and into the last 16 of the Europa League as well, Emery’s men realistically have two separate chances of securing Champions League football for next season.
Indeed, after Manchester United’s draw at home to Liverpool, Arsenal find themselves back in fourth, and looking at the fixture list, seem to have more of a favourable run-in than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
After the north London derby against Tottenham next week, the Gunners’ remaining ‘big’ fixture is against United at the Emirates; while the Red Devils also have to take on Manchester City and Chelsea at the back end of April.
With the fixtures coming thick and fast over the remaining weeks and months, it will be vital for the Gunners’ chances of Champions League football next season that Emery uses his squad wisely.
One of those wise decisions may well be to start leaving one or the other out. It may not be the most popular decision at the Emirates, but it could well be the right one.