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Wenger blew Lacazette chance: Why Arsenal must sell Alexis NOW

COMMENT: Those Alvaro Morata misses on Wednesday? Forget 'em. The biggest opportunity blown on the night laid at the feet of Arsene Wenger.

With scores locked at 1-1 and entering the final quarter of the game, here was Wenger's chance. The moment to make a statement about his team and Arsenal's future. Keep him on. Keep Alexandre Lacazette on. And hook Alexis Sanchez. Lacazette is the present and future of this club. Alexis? He's spent the past year trying to get away from London Colney.

To choose Alexis over Lacazette. What a statement that would've made. What a boost to the confidence and self belief of Lacazette. 'You're our future Alex. You're Arsenal's prime striker. My No9. Now find that second wind and win it for us'.

Instead on 80 minutes. When the board went up from the fourth official. It was the No9 in neon lights and not Alexis' No7. Instead of Wenger giving home fans a good 15 minute peek into their future. Pairing Danny Welbeck with Lacazette. He went with what he knew. And with that, Wenger missed his chance.

Of course, many will argue Lacazette just isn't at Alexis' level. At that stage of the game, with everything in the balance, you don't take a player off of the Chilean's quality. But such concerns didn't hold back Antonio Conte in the Chelsea dugout. A couple of minutes later, he called away Eden Hazard - their goalscorer. Dodgy pen an' all that. Replacing him with Willian. Different circumstances sure. But the reputation of Hazard didn't come into Conte's decision making.

It's been better for Lacazette over the past month. Three full 90s in 10 games doesn't read well - but it's a big improvement on the one full game before then granted in August.

Wenger has argued Lacazette's body just isn't yet equipped for the rigours of Premier League football. But with six months of the English game now under his belt, Lacazette should be (which he is) match fit. And if you're chasing a winner late in the game. You want your prime No9 on the pitch. Reacting quickest. Getting their shoulder ahead of tired opposition defenders. The one who will act brighter, sharper than those marking him. And the one who is going to be around on February 1.

Come Monday the winter transfer window will have been open for a week. And we'll definitely know more about Wenger and his plans for Alexis. At Nottingham Forest on Sunday for the FA Cup, if Alexis is to be sold this month it would be mad to play and Cup-tie him for the remainder of the tournament. The Gunners would be blowing millions.

Clearly the end is nigh. The trickle of leaks from inside the Gunners locker room transformed into a flood before Christmas. Alexis' relationship with his teammates is in its final throes. The contrast between the unified goal celebrations of Jack Wilshere on Wednesday and what confronted Alexis at Crystal Palace offered every confirmation of what we've been reading in the press. The players. The staff. They're fed up. And the best thing Wenger can do is approve Alexis' sale - and quickly so to give himself and 'Diamond Eye' Sven Mislintat enough time to identify and bring in a replacement.

Some ex-pros have argued Arsenal's players don't need to like Alexis to play with him. And that's true. But when you're learning from coaching staff that he's acting up in training. Going slow. This isn't the high standards you expect when indulging an obstinate character.

Others have cited Roy Keane and his relationship with Manchester United's squad. Again, a decent example. But United and Roy didn't exactly ride off into the sunset together. And you fancy the same combustible situation at Arsenal if things are allowed to drag on.

So sell. Sell now. And on your terms. Leave Alexis in the stands at the City Ground and just sell to the highest bidder. Then get on the phone to Antero Henrique, the PSG sports director, and do some business.

The Parisians need to sell. Financial Fair Play is threatening their 2018 market plans. At the third attempt, Julian Draxler can be Arsenal's this month. Goncalo Guedes, currently on-loan at Valencia, can also be whisked away for the right price. Both attackers with exciting potential. Both capable of slipping into Wenger's system. And both available from a PSG that needs to satisfy the finger waggers at UEFA.

Of course, it all reads so simple on paper. But often the biggest decisions are just that. Just like on 80 minutes in a London derby, going with the striker committed to the cause over the one desperate to get out.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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