Under fire Arsenal star vindicates Mikel Arteta’s Folarin Balogun selection decision

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Alexandre Lacazette vindicated Mikel Arteta’s decision to start him ahead of Folarin Balogun with a goalscoring performance in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat of Sheffield United. Arteta had come under pressure to start Balogun with Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to fire this season.

Balogun has impressed fans with his fine season in front of goal this season, scoring eight times for the club’s Under 23s side, as well as claiming two goals in five substitute appearances for the first team.

Those impressive statistics contrast sharply with Lacazette’s season, with the Frenchman having scored just 11 times in 26 Premier League games leading up to the trip to Sheffield.

With Balogun’s obvious talent, the Gunners have been engaged in in contract talks with the youngster throughout the season in an effort to tie him down long-term.

A breakthrough was finally made this week when it was widely reported that Balogun was set to put pen to paper on a new deal.

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That news, coupled with Lacazette’s indifferent form, saw many supporters call on Arteta to start Balogun for the first time.

But instead of heeding those calls, the Arsenal manager instead decided to hand Lacazette his 21st start of the season, also naming him captain.

And despite seeing Balogun commit his future to the club, Arteta also decided to leave Balogun out of the squad altogether.

The Spaniard need not have worried that the decision would come back to haunt him though, with Lacazette a key player as the Gunners dominated at Bramall Lane.

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The Gunners enjoyed 60 per cent of the possession, but were struggling to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale in the Blades’ goal.

That was until the 33rd minute, when the visitors’ dominance finally paid off when they scored a beautiful opening goal.

Lacazette zipped the ball into the feet of Bukayo Saka, starting on the right wing, before going on a run.

Saka then found Dani Ceballos who played a sublime backheel to perfectly pick out Lacazette, who stayed onside and steered the ball into the bottom corner.

That was Lacazette’s ninth away goal of the season, with only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scoring more times away from home.

The Frenchman doubled his tally for the evening five minutes from time when he was released by Thomas Partey to go through on goal.

With just Sheffield United keeper Ramsdale to beat, Lacazette stayed goal to slot the ball past the Englishman and into the bottom corner.

Lacazette’s double was was enough to hand Arsenal the three points and see them move back into the top half of the Premier League, vindicating Arteta’s decision to start him over Balogun in the process.

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