Alexandre Lacazette has taken aim at his critics and insisted he counts Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a friend, not a rival.
French hitman Lacazette insists that the duo can lead Arsenal to a successful campaign under Unai Emery, reports Football.London.
Lacazette joined the Gunners last summer for £46.5million and after taking just three minutes to open his account would bag eight times in his opening 15 games.
But, troubled by a knee injury, he then endured a difficult spell which saw him score just one goal in 13 games and in January Arsenal went back into the transfer market to land the prolific Aubameyang from Dortmund, splashing out a record £56million to get him.
It led to many casting doubts over Lacazette’s future at the Emirates, especially when he was dropped to the bench for Aubameyang’s debut against Everton.
But the 27-year-old insists he never saw the capture of Aubameyang as a threat and believes the form the duo showed towards the end of last season proved that they can play together.
“I never said it [Aubameyang’s arrival] was bad for me, only people in the press said it was bad,” he said. “I was happy because I knew I could play with him.
“I didn’t see him as a rival, more like a team-mate, so since the beginning I was happy about his signature.”
Since Aubameyang’s arrival in January, he and Lacazette have formed a good relationship off the pitch – with the forwards now close friends.
And when asked whether that will help Arsenal this season, in terms of performances on the pitch, the former Lyon man added: “Yes, of course. If people are good off the pitch, of course on the pitch it will be easier to play.”
Lacazette ended his first season in north London with 17 goals to his name in all competitions, 14 of which came in the Premier League.
It’s a decent tally considering he had to adjust to life outside France for the first time in his career and he missed six weeks due to knee surgery in February.
Despite that, however, there were still plenty outside of Arsenal who viewed the striker’s debut campaign in England as a disappointment, considering the money that was paid to bring him to north London.
But the Gunners frontman has a message for those critcis.
“I don’t care how people judge me,” he said. “I know if I stay in Arsenal the club is happy and my team-mates as well. This is the most important thing.
“It [last season] has finished and for me it’s the past. OK, when I didn’t score, of course I was frustrated but it’s finished. It was my first season so I can’t be too hard on myself, even if I wanted to score more goals.
"I’ve learned from this and now I am happy to start a new season."
Lacazette has started Arsneal’s pre-season campaign with four goals in four games, including two in the thumping 5-1 win against Paris Saint Germain in Singapore and the equaliser against Chelsea on Wednesday night.
The striker insists he is feeling fit and strong ahead of his second year in the Premier League, having had the summer off after being omitted from France’s World Cup winning squad.
He admits being left out by Didier Deschamps was tough to take, but as the tournament in Russia progressed he brushed off his frustration and just focused on supporting his teammates on their way to lifting the trophy.
“I am still happy because it’s my country,” he said. “Of course, at first I was disappointed not to be in the team but one month later I had forgotten this and I as happy for my friends.
“When you know you will not be part of the adventure you just have to be with them. It’s normal I think.”
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