On Tuesday, news broke that Alexandre Lacazette had undergone ‘minor knee surgery’ and would face an extended spell on the sidelines. Through a statement released on the website, the club announced that:
“Striker Alex Lacazette had an arthroscopy on his left knee in London on Tuesday morning.
“The minor procedure was a success and he will now undergo a period of rehabilitation.
“It is envisaged that he will return to the squad within four to six weeks.”
This would potentially see Lacazette out-of-action until April, starting with the first leg of the Europa League tie with Östersunds FK. With new signing Aubameyang cup-tied – and following the January departures of Giroud, Sanchez and Walcott – Danny Welbeck will be favourite to start the clash. Should Arsenal progress, Lacazette is expected to be unavailable for the next round, meaning up to four games in Europe with Welbeck as the recognised senior striker, which is seldom enough. Should Welbeck suffer an injury, or the Gunners need a goal, Wenger may be forced to turn to youth but has a couple of exciting options to consider.
Following a dream home debut in the Carabao Cup, where the forward would score two late match-winning goals, Eddie Nketiah has already begun to become a fan favourite at the Emirates. He is yet to make his league bow, but the 18-year-old has already made four appearances in Europe this year. The Elephant and Castle has been terrifying defenders for the under-23s with his pace and silky footwork but at 5ft 8in, may struggle against Europe’s top sides. Arsenal’s first knockout opponents fortunately do not fit this classification and Wenger may see them as an ideal opportunity to blood the in-form striker, fresh from a hattrick against Everton’s under-23s earlier this month.
Arsenal are developing a promising assembly of forwards in the academy and along with Nketiah, Folarin Balogun is fast becoming one-to-watch. He is also enjoying a prolific season in his first as an Arsenal scholar, adding 9 goals in 13 games for the under-18s this year. Able to operate as an attacking midfielder, Balogun is a powerful forward who is viewed as a potential star for the future. Although being 16, should Arsenal hold an imposing lead over their unfancied opponents in the first leg, do not be surprised to see Balogun given an opportunity at the Emirates in the return.