London, United Kingdom | AFP | The pressure is on record signing Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette to score goals with Arsenal’s leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suspended for three matches, according to manager Mikel Arteta.
Aubameyang took his tally to 16 goals in all competitions this season in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday but was also sent off, earning the suspension at a critical time for the Premier League side.
The dropped points leave the Gunners 11 points adrift of a Champions League spot next season and only seven points clear of the relegation places.
Hence Arteta’s call for both Pepe and Lacazette especially to be more clinical in front of goal for the three matches which will not feature Aubameyang.
They host sixth-placed Sheffield United next weekend and also have a tricky league match with Chelsea as well as an FA Cup fourth round tie away at out of form Bournemouth.
Pepe has yet to live up to his £72 million ($93 million) fee scoring just five times this term while Lacazette has six goals to his name, but has not found the net in six matches since scoring in the Europa League match with Standard Liege on December 12.
“They have to make a step forward now,” said Arteta.
“If he (Aubameyang) is not able to contribute to the team with goals like this, then someone else has to do it and I want to see that reaction too.
“Probably the most important player is missing so it is not nice, but we have other players who can play in that position and we will find a way and be as competitive as possible.”
Arteta’s alternative would be to call on younger players such as Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli, who is Arsenal’s second top goalscorer this season with a tally of eight, although the majority of them have occurred in cup competitions.
Another alternative is the talented Eddie Nketiah, who returned early from his loan spell at Championship side Leeds having failed to secure regular first team football.
“At the moment we have to think mid-to-long term with Eddie,” he said.
“We have to respect his evolution and development and we don’t have to make a decision just based on two or three games.”