“I want to play in Europe, it’s been a long time since I played in the Champions League. I’m missing it,” the Frenchman told Canal Plus. His frustrations were valid, as the Gunners did not take part in the continent’s premier competition during any of his five seasons at the Emirates.
In fact, they were absent from European competition in any capacity during Lacazette’s final campaign in North London, marking the first time in 25 years they had failed to qualify. In contrast, he racked up 22 Champions League appearances during his time with boyhood club Lyon, to whom he has now returned on a free transfer at the expiry of his Arsenal contract.
The 31-year-old has signed a three-year contract and declared it was the “obvious” decision to make at this stage of his career, despite the fact Lyon will not be competing in Europe next season. Peter Bosz’s side could only finish eighth in Ligue 1 last season and finished five points adrift of the Europa Conference League spot, let alone the Champions League places.
Nonetheless, Lacazette insists he has joined an “ambitious” project. Speaking at his Lyon unveiling on Thursday, he said: “Even without the European Cup, the club remains ambitious. I think I have made progress in the game and in my leadership. I want to help the team.”
Lacazette had plenty going for him with the Gunners. He earned a hefty salary of £180,000 per week, was viewed as an experienced foil for the club’s crop of exciting youngsters and was even entrusted with the skipper’s armband after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy.
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Further, he only lost his place in the starting XI to Eddie Nketiah once it became increasingly obvious he would not be sticking around this summer. Nonetheless, Lacazette has taken a substantial pay cut to join a team who finished in mid-table in the French top flight, who cannot satisfy his Champions League urges.
Whether he was drawn to return to the club he first joined at the age of 12 or there is more than meets the eye to the situation, it is up to Arsenal to prove they can also offer an “ambitious” project. Having narrowly missed out on a top-four finish to local rivals Tottenham, the pressure is on Mikel Arteta and Gunners chiefs to recruit wisely and lift the club into the top table of European football – or else other, more-important players may soon follow Lacazette’s lead.