Alexandre Lacazette has urged Corentin Tolisso to follow his lead by returning to Lyon.

Lacazette, 31, was presented as a Lyon player on Thursday after the club confirmed he is re-joining from Arsenal when his Gunners contract expires at the end of June.

The France striker spent five years in north London after leaving Lyon in 2017 in a deal the Ligue 1 club claim was worth €60million (£51.3m).

It was confirmed on Thursday that he has signed a three-year deal with his former club, though it would seem he may not be the only Lyon youth product to return to the Groupama Stadium.

Tolisso left for Bayern Munich the same year Lacazette departed, and while he won a host of titles, including five Bundesliga crowns and the Champions League, his spell in Germany was an injury-interrupted disappointment.

Only once did he manage to appear in more than half of Bayern's league games, and it was confirmed at the end of May that Tolisso, 27, was to depart at the end of June once his contract had finished.

And, speaking during his presentation, Lacazette told the midfielder where he should head next.

He said: "Above all, I want to help the club get back to the top of the pile. I spoke with the coach, he called me last week. He told me what he expected of me. I don't need the armband to talk in the locker room.

"There have been many changes since I left. The club is progressing well. Anthony [Lopes], he's been writing to me every week for six months to find out if I've made my decision. I also push for Corentin Tolisso to come back."

Lacazette's return means he could yet become Lyon's all-time leading goalscorer.

During his first spell at the club, he netted 129 times – the record, set by Fleury Di Nallo in 1974, is 222.

He could not hide that the record is at the back of his mind but stressed it is not his main objective.

"I thank the president, Vincent [Ponsot, director of football] and Bruno [Cheyrou, technical director], but above all for the welcome and the love you have shown me in recent weeks. It was obvious to me [to return]," he said.

"Despite the absence of the Champions League, the project was more important than anything else.

"I felt I could be useful in the locker room and on the pitch in this project, so it was the best decision.

"It's exciting to come back. I can't wait to start the season. I have progressed in my leadership, I gained experience.

"The ranking of goalscorers in OL's history is in the back of my head, but it's not the priority."

Alexandre Lacazette will rejoin Lyon on a free transfer from Arsenal, despite the Ligue 1 side not qualifying for European football next season.

Lacazette moved from Lyon to Arsenal in 2017 for an initial €60million (£51.3m) fee on a five-year contract, which comes to its end in June.

The 31-year-old previously suggested he would be open to re-signing for Lyon, adding in April he was in discussion with "many clubs".

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas responded by stating "if we need to make compromises to get [Lacazette], we will", while director of football Vincent Ponsot outlined his desire to bring the forward back home.

And Peter Bosz's team, who finished eighth in Ligue 1 this season, have managed to seal the France international's return to his boyhood club, announcing on Thursday that Lacazette has signed three-year deal.

Lacazette endured a frustrating campaign in front of goal this season as Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification to fierce rivals Tottenham.

The striker played 30 Premier League games but only scored four times, his worst return since the 2012-13 term when he managed only league three goals for Lyon.

However, Lacazette provided a creative force for Mikel Arteta's team, sitting joint-top of the assists chart with Bukayo Saka on seven.

Lacazette also ranked sixth for chances created at Arsenal, with his 29 placing him behind Emile Smith Rowe (30), Granit Xhaka (32), Gabriel Martinelli (34), Saka (68) and Martin Odegaard (77).

Bosz will hope Lacazette can deliver that creativity for Lyon next season and find his feet in front of goal, given he was the last non-Paris Saint-Germain player to finish as Ligue 1's outright top scorer (27 goals in 2014-15).

Alexandre Lacazette has played his final match for Arsenal, the north London giants confirmed on Thursday.

Arsenal announced the striker's time with the club will come to an end by the end of June, when his contract expires.

Lacazette moved from Lyon to Arsenal in 2017 for an initial €53million (£46.5m) but made his intentions to depart Emirates Stadium clear during the 2021-22 campaign.

The 30-year-old suggested he wanted to play in the Champions League, where he has never featured for Arsenal, but admitted he would be open to re-signing for boyhood club Lyon.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas and director of football Vincent Ponsot responded by outlining their desire to bring the forward to the Groupama Stadium.

The Ligue 1 side, who will not play in Europe next season after finishing eighth in the French top flight, could soon secure the services of Lacazette.

"Laca has been a fantastic player for us," said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta. "He's been a real leader on and off the pitch and has been a very important influence to our younger players.

"His commitment with us has been exceptional and we wish him and his family success and happiness."

Lacazette endured a disappointing scoring campaign last season as Arsenal finished fifth, missing out on Champions League qualification to north London rivals Tottenham.

The striker only scored four times across 30 Premier League games, his worst tally since the 2012-13 season when he found the net just three times in Ligue 1 for Lyon.

Nevertheless, Lacazette looks back fondly on his time in England.

"Five years ago, my dream came true.. To sign for Arsenal," he wrote on Instagram. "It's been an honour to wear the jersey, to be a part of this family.

"I won trophies, I met real and nice people, and I fell even more in love with this club. Good luck for the future of the club and the fans, it's been a pleasure. Once a Gunner, Always a Gunner."

Lacazette, speaking to Arsenal's official website, said it was time for "a new experience and a new adventure".

He said: "When I came to Arsenal, I was a bit like a kid with big names, big players, a lot of pressure, and I was not talking so much.

"Year after year I started to talk more, my English got better, my relationships with people at the club got stronger and with the players as well. So I'm happy for who I am now and where I came from.

"I'll keep in contact with my team-mates, with the coaches, with the club. I supported Arsenal since I was young, so obviously I'm going to keep supporting them. I know I will come back to the stadium as well."

Following their Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal, Bayern Munich's squad is set to transform.

With Robert Lewandowski and others looking to follow Niklas Sule out of Sabenerstrasse this off-season, replacements have reportedly long been in mind.

While Sadio Mane's rumoured transfer is viewed with the short-term in mind, options deeper on the pitch evidently represents a longer-term vision.

TOP STORY – GRAVENBERCH SET FOR BAYERN MOVE

Bayern Munich appear set to bolster their midfield stocks with Ryan Gravenberch's upcoming signing, according to Fabrizio Romano.

With Corentin Tolisso effectively confirming his departure in an interview with L'Equipe and Marc Roca also reportedly on the way, Die Roten's midfield is in need of reinforcement.

It is understood the highly rated 20-year-old has already completed a medical, and paperwork between Ajax and Bayern is being prepared to formalise.

Bayern have also reportedly added a seven per cent on-sell clause to sweeten the deal for the Netherlands international. 

ROUND-UP

– Five years after selling him to ArsenalLyon want to re-sign France forward Alexandre Lacazette on a free transfer, per L'Equipe.

– The Gunners are also intent on signing Youri Tielemans, who appears set to leave Leicester City this off-season, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Barcelona have identified Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku as an alternative if they are unable to sign Robert Lewandowski, Mundo Deportivo is reporting.

– Manchester City could see both Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko leave this off-season, while Raheem Sterling would only join another elite club, the Athletic reports.

Mikel Arteta urged Alexandre Lacazette to focus on the task at hand with Arsenal amid speculation the striker could leave the Gunners.

Frenchman Lacazette desires European football next season, and is eyeing a move to a Champions League side after failing to make a single appearance in the competition for Arsenal.

The 30-year-old suggested, in an interview with Canal Plus, that former club Lyon are among several interested in signing him when his contract expires at the end of the season.

While Arteta understands it is up to Lacazette to decide his future, the Spaniard implored him to concentrate on the current challenge with Arsenal as they fight for a place in England's top four.

Arsenal head to Chelsea on Wednesday in the Premier League sitting three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who have played a game more.

"He doesn't need to tell me what he does in his own life but he has and we've discussed that and he's entitled to do that," he said of captain Lacazette at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"His contract situation allows him to make the decision about the future. We have expressed clearly what our intention is, to speak in the summer when we know where we are and what we're going to do in the future together. 

"For the rest, I just want him fully focused on his duty, which is now defending Arsenal in the best possible way like he's done all the time when he's been with us, and that's why he's been wearing the armband of this football club, so that's a big risk.

"The contracts start and end with the expiry date that you have agreed on the day that you put the pen down, and then you have to live with the consequences of that.

"That's the reality of the contract that he has and the commitment and the duty he has with the football club.

"That is the agreement that we made with him. That was our position, and our position remains the same - that this is what we are going to do.

"Then it's up to him because it's not about us or him, it's about both parties."

Lacazette missed training and was absent with COVID-19 against Southampton on Saturday; the Gunners suffering three successive losses in the league for the third time during Arteta's reign.

As Arsenal aim to avoid four consecutive league defeats for the first since March 1995 under Stewart Houston, Arteta was unsure whether Lacazette would return in time.

"With Laca we are assessing him today to see if he is available with the team, obviously as you all know he had Covid so he’s been away for a few days," he added.

"So we're trying to get [how] he's feeling and where he's at if he can contribute somehow with the team."

Should Lacazette leave in the close season, that may make room for fellow striker Eddie Nketiah, who is becoming increasingly frustrated with a lack of minutes.

"He is right to be upset," Arteta added. "This is what we want from the players that haven't had the minutes.

"Especially Eddie, because if there is a player in the dressing room that deserves more chances, that is for sure Eddie.

"It's not about pressure to play him, it's about trying to put a team there that can win football matches, and you believe that has the best possible chance to win it.

"Then just pick the players, regardless of the situation. We could have gone for a completely different approach and played him even less or don't give him any opportunities, or don't put him in the squad.

"We have to treat every player with the duty that we have. They are our players, we want to get the best out of them. With Eddie I said many times as well how much I rate him.

"We have big plans for him at this club for the future, and this is where we are today and we have to accept that reality."

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette is open to a return to former club Lyon, explaining that he is in talks with "many clubs" ahead of his contract expiring.

However, the 30-year-old also wants to play European football next season, and is eyeing a Champions League move after failing to make a single appearance in the competition for the Gunners. 

Lacazette has made 25 Premier League starts this season as Mikel Arteta's team chase a top-four finish, but looks set to end his five-year spell in north London when his deal expires at the end of June.

The Frenchman has scored just four league goals this campaign, but leads the Gunners squad for assists after laying on seven, and says he has multiple options open to him.

Lacazette said Lyon, whom he left for the Gunners in 2017, could be among them, expressing regret that a talented generation of French players, including himself and Corentin Tolisso, left the club at similar times.

"I am in discussion with many clubs," Lacazette told Canal Plus.

"I have never cut contact with Lyon since I left. I try to return to the club once or twice a year to see the medical staff again because we are really close. So yes, now that Lyon knows that I am free, they have to come with a proposal.

"It would be good, but it's not me who decides. It's true that it's a bit sad and a shame that we all left at the same time, it may have been a mistake from the club."

However, Lacazette also emphasised his desire to play Champions League football, having arrived at Arsenal immediately after their most recent campaign in Europe's top competition, and hinted the absence of European football could be a stumbling block to any Lyon return, as they sit 8th in Ligue 1 with just six games remaining.

"I want to play in Europe, it's been a long time since I played in the Champions League too so I miss it," he added. "Nothing is impossible in life but it's a little more complicated [without European football]."

Lacazette was absent due to a positive COVID-19 test when Arsenal fell to their third consecutive Premier League defeat against Southampton on Saturday, as the Gunners saw their top-four hopes dealt another blow.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta expects more "twists" as the Gunners fight with north London rivals Tottenham for Champions League qualification.

Arteta's side seemingly turned a corner in 2022 as they surged to fourth in the Premier League, but consecutive losses against Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion have handed the advantage to Spurs.

Antonio Conte's team sit three points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, who have played a game fewer, as the pair contest alongside West Ham for a place in England's top four.

But Arteta, speaking ahead of the clash with Southampton on Saturday, insists there should be more changes and drama expected as the season heads towards its conclusion.

Asked who was in control of the top-four push, he responded on Friday: "Whoever manages to win more games and play better.

"There's going to be some twists still for sure and the pressure and situation is going to keep changing between now and the end of the season. We have to be focused on us and what we have to do.

"Every game [is important], but obviously when you lose, the next game takes more importance and we know that."

Arsenal are set to visit Tottenham in the penultimate week of the season in what is being billed as a decider for the final Champions League spot, but Arteta does not feel more pressure despite the rivalry.

"I think it's related to our history and we want to be not fourth, but third, second or first, and that's what we have to do," he added.

"That's always within every supporter and anybody who has any connection with the club, so the moment you see the team doing better and having better aspirations, your tendency is to get excited about it and I think that's the right reaction."

Arsenal began their 2021-22 campaign with three consecutive league losses in August, and defeat at Southampton would reproduce the same unwanted feat.

Arteta's team are in much better stead now, but the Spaniard dismissed suggestions that the Gunners would have settled for fifth in the Premier League after their abject start.

"At the start of the season? You cannot take anything because you don't know how things are going to develop," he continued.

"You could ask me a week into the season or two weeks before, I could maybe give you a different answer, but no, no."

Alexandre Lacazette has not scored from open play in the league since a strike in December against Southampton, who he has been involved in seven goals in six top-flight appearances against.

Reports suggest Lacazette missed training in midweek, but Arteta assured there is a "good possibility" he will play, while he hailed Bukayo Saka, who is the only English player to have registered both 50-plus shots and 50 or more chances created in the competition this term.

"He's a great kid, and he has a really clear idea of what he needs to expect," he said of the England international. "The better he does, the more difficult they are going to try and make it for him, that's for sure.

"I think he needs the protection that all the players need at this level, nothing different, nothing special.

"The best players and the talented players are always going to be, closely looked at, and they are going to close the space and they are going to be tight on them.

"Bukayo has to recognise that is going to be the case. Referees have to recognise that as well, early in the game, and then try to protect them."

Mikel Arteta urged Arsenal to respond against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday after a shabby performance at Crystal Palace slowed their Champions League push.

The Gunners had surged into top-four contention, but an underwhelming outing at Selhurst Park in a 3-0 reverse on Monday condemned them to a second loss in their last three Premier League games (W1), having lost just one of their previous 11 (W9 D1).

North London rivals Tottenham, who cruised past Newcastle United 5-1 on Sunday, occupy the final place in England's top four, though they are level on points with Arteta's side, who have a game in hand.

Manager Arteta called for a reaction from his team when they host Brighton, who have not defeated, or even scored against, Arsenal in their last three league meetings.

"Monday is gone. We're looking forward to playing in front of our fans," Arteta said in a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"We have to play better and we have to compete much better than we did on Monday. [The setback] has happened and it's happened with nine games to go, and we have to react now.

"We have to show tomorrow the energy, the commitment and the passion that we want to play the game tomorrow in front of our fans. Embrace the challenge."

Matters were made worse against Patrick Vieira's side after it was confirmed Kieran Tierney could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Thomas Partey continues to be monitored for a thigh problem that will keep him out for "some weeks".

"You lost, now you want to win, it's hurting and it's still hurting. We lost two big players, two really important players for us for sure," Arteta said.

"But whenever that happens you can't cry for it because they are not going to be available for us. So we have to find other solutions, and we have to be as good and as competitive as we have been."

 

Nuno Tavares was hooked off at half-time as he endured a torrid outing at left-back against Palace, with Jordan Ayew's strike a combination of his and Gabriel Magalhaes' fault through miscommunication.

However, Arteta assured the young Portugal defender he will bounce back from his mistakes.

"Throughout your career you have to go through difficult moments, and he's had some really good periods since he arrived at the club, and he was playing many more minutes than he was probably expecting," Arteta said of Tavares.

"That's the life of a player, especially at that age. There's ups and downs, and we are here to try and help him and make his career better, and that's what we're going to do.

"He is ready and he is willing, and he will be disappointed, but it's part of the job and we have to make decisions to try to win football matches. There is nothing personal there."

Crucial to Arsenal's hopes against Brighton will be the performance of Alexandre Lacazette, who has not scored from open play in any of his last 16 appearances across all competitions.

That amounts to 22 hours and 28 minutes without an open-play goal for the former Lyon striker since his last against Southampton in December, but Arteta expressed his support.

"Laca's contribution to the team in many other ways has been phenomenal," Arteta said.

Chelsea's midfield targets in the upcoming transfer window have left a potential opening for Real Madrid in pursuit of N'Golo Kante.

The France international reportedly knocked back a move to Paris Saint-Germain in the January window, but midfield rejuvenation is a priority for Madrid.

While Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been mainstays in the middle at the Santiago Bernabeu, Kante would bring new energy to the Spanish giants.

TOP STORY – KANTE LINED UP AS REAL MADRID SOLUTION

The transfer market domino effect could lead Kante to Madrid, AS has reported.

While both Madrid and Chelsea are in the race to sign Aurelien Tchouameni, the Blues also have an interest in Declan Rice, which could open up the possibility of Kante leaving.

The 31-year-old is coming into the final year of his contract, leaving Madrid with potential leverage to force Chelsea's hand.

While Kante has seen extensive time on the sidelines this season, missing game time through a combination of COVID-19, groin and knee troubles, he could be Madrid's top target if they fail to land Tchouameni.

ROUND-UP

– Barcelona are keen to sign 30-year-old Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, Sport reports.

– Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is confident the club will be able to keep Antonio Rudiger alongside Cesar Azpilicueta, who triggered a contract extension, per Goal.

– Bild is reporting Bayern Munich have commenced talks over a new deal for Thomas Muller, with his contract expiring at the end of next season.

– Erik ten Hag is the favourite to become the new Manchester United manager, with the Ajax coach seeing a move to the Premier League as a progression in his career, according to Sport1.

The best teams in the world are circling Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who has 23 goals and six assists in 23 club appearances this season.

The 21-year-old Norwegian was ruled out of Barcelona's price range earlier this week by president Joan Laporta, but there are some clubs who can stomach the asking price.

While there will be an array of suitors investigating if a move will be possible for their club, Manchester City and Real Madrid are the most likely to put their money where their mouths are.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER CITY HAVE UPPER HAND IN HAALAND SWEEPSTAKES

ESPN is reporting City are "optimistic they can see off competition from Real Madrid" in the race for Haaland's services.

City are said to be in the market for a striker, and are confident they can pay the reported €75million release clause in Haaland's Dortmund contract.

After the departures of Angelino, Ferran Torres and Jack Harrison for a combined €85m, City are in a position of financial strength heading into the upcoming transfer period.

ROUND-UP

Manchester United have reignited their chase of Villareal defender Pau Torres, according to 90min. Torres was a target for the Red Devils before they ultimately signed Raphael Varane back in August.

Barcelona will look to bring in French forward Alexandre Lacazette on a free transfer after his contract expires at Arsenal after this season, reports Diario SPORT.

– Football Insider is reporting Aston Villa are planning on spending more than £150m in the next transfer window, breaking their previous spending record.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is confident in retaining the services of defender Antonio Rudiger with a new contract, according to Goal.

– El Nacional is reporting Real Madrid believe they can land Arsenal target Karim Adeyemi from Red Bull Salzburg.

In-form Arsenal moved back into the Premier League's top four as Thomas Partey and Alexandre Lacazette scored in a 2-0 win over Leicester City.

Partey opened the scoring for Mikel Arteta's men following a corner, before hitting the angle of post and crossbar during a first half in which Leicester managed just three shots.

Caglar Soyuncu's handball allowed Lacazette to double the advantage from the penalty spot, sealing another win for one of the Premier League's strongest current sides.

The result lifted Arsenal back above Manchester United in the table, as they chase a first top-four finish since 2016.

After making a bright start, Arsenal took the lead in the 11th minute, exploiting Leicester's continued frailty from set-pieces when the unmarked Partey headed in Gabriel Martinelli's corner.

Spurred on by that, Arsenal twice came close to doubling their advantage in the 18th minute, with Partey curling a fantastic attempt against the goal frame after Granit Xhaka's shot was blocked at close range.

Home goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was forced into his first serious save after 35 minutes, acrobatically turning away Harvey Barnes' flicked header, but Leicester struggled to create chances in a strong opening period for the hosts.

But the Gunners were awarded a penalty after a VAR review just moments later when Soyuncu handled Partey's header, allowing Lacazette to fire into the top left corner in the 59th minute.

Kieran Tierney denied Barnes with a last-ditch challenge, and Emile Smith Rowe went close from a tight angle, before the Gunners confidently saw out their ninth win in 11 league matches.

What does it mean? Arsenal in fine form at the perfect time

After seeing off the challenge of Leicester, Arsenal have taken 28 points from the last 33 available to them in the Premier League, with no team able to better their return over that period.

Arteta's men lead top-four rivals Manchester United by a single point in the table, and they also possess three games in hand over the Red Devils as they emerge as favourites for Champions League qualification.

Partey time as Arsenal exploit Foxes' weakness

Partey's early header represented the Ghana midfielder's second goal of the Premier League season, and was an all-too-familiar sight for Brendan Rodgers.

It also underlined Leicester's dire set-piece record. Excluding penalties, the Foxes have now conceded 15 Premier League goals from set-piece situations this season, the most of any side.

Martinelli improvement continues with assist

After swinging in the corner for Partey's opener, Martinelli has been directly involved in eight goals in 18 Premier League appearances this season, registering five goals and three assists.

That total represents two more goal improvements than he registered in his first two campaigns in the competition (six goal involvements in 28 appearances).

What's next?

The Gunners will host Liverpool in a huge Premier League clash on Wednesday, while Leicester turn their attentions to Europe the following day, travelling to Rennes for the second leg of their Europa Conference League tie.

Mikel Arteta acknowledged that Arsenal playing in Europe next season "changes a lot" to attract transfer targets and he is demanding more from his in-form side.

Arsenal have taken 25 points from their last 30 available to them in the Premier League (W8 D1 L1) – no side has earned more points over their past 10 top-flight games – to leave them fourth in the league.

The Gunners, who are a point ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United and have played three games fewer, host Leicester City on Sunday as they search for a fifth straight league victory.

But Arteta warned his players that they must further extend their winning run to compete with the top teams, while he commented on how potential signings will be impacted by Arsenal's position come the end of the season.

"To be with the top teams you have to win consistently and do it in a convincing way," he told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"I need even more than that amount of victories [four in a row] because there are teams in this league who do that for 10, 11, 12 or 18 times, so still the margin is pretty big."

On any potential transfer dealings, he added: "There are two things: the amount of games that you have to play and the amount of players you need in the squad.

"The players you are losing or retaining in that squad, and then the [players] that are available, which playing in the European competitions changes a lot."

Arsenal appear favourites to secure the last spot in England's top four, but Arteta insists he is taking each game as it comes heading into a crucial period of the campaign.

"I don't know, the only matter for me is how we train tomorrow and how we play on Sunday," he responded when asked if his side were top-four favourites. 

"The rest, this is football and it's so unpredictable: nobody knows what can happen. Our only focus is on performing and winning matches."

Stand-in captain Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has provided more assists than any other Arsenal player in the Premier League this campaign (seven).

His two assists in the 3-2 win at Watford last time out took him to 100 goal involvements in all competitions in his Arsenal career (70 goals, 30 assists in 196 games), and Arteta has been pleased with the Frenchman, whose contract will be discussed in the close season.

"We have discussions as you know and at the end of the season, once we know where we are, we will make a decision altogether," Arteta said of Lacazette's situation. 

"I don't want anyone to think about something else that is not that. The decision, we agreed, is to do it in the summer and we're going to do it as soon as the season is finished.

On his lack of goals, Arteta responded: "I think he’s been very close and that’s why we have to keep pushing him and giving him support that he plays with that confidence and hopefully on Sunday he can do it."

The Arsenal boss has also been impressed with Lacazette's fellow attacker, Gabriel Martinelli, who has stepped up after the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona in January.

"Gabi is playing in a different position because Auba certainly in the last few months played as a nine, but Gabi has shown big signs of where he’s moving," he continued. 

"Certainly the capacity that he has to score goals and be a threat in the final third and I think his contribution all around in his game has been exceptional. He totally deserves the amount of minutes that he’s been playing."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hailed Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard's quality after both scored in a thrilling 3-2 win at Watford.

Saka and Odegaard netted terrific first-half goals before Gabriel Martinelli added a third after the break, although replies from Watford's Cucho Hernandez and Moussa Sissoko ensured a nervy ending for the Gunners.

Arsenal, who are chasing a first top-four finish since 2016, have won four consecutive Premier League games, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Saka and Odegaard, who combined for the Norwegian's opener.

Saka has now posted 13 goal contributions in the Premier League this season (eight goals and five assists). Among players aged 21 and younger in the five big European leagues, only Bayer Leverkusen's Florian Wirtz, with 17, has more than the England man.

Although Arteta was frustrated with Arsenal's defensive lapses at Vicarage Road, he was keen to highlight how the duo's understanding has impacted the Gunners' attacking displays.

"We were really good going forward, and we had all the right intention and the energy to do it," Arteta said. "We scored three magnificent goals, but we didn't have the same energy and commitment defensively. When that happens, you're going to suffer."

Arteta is impressed by how Arsenal are moving the ball and finding reliable links between key personnel.

He said: "The speed of the movement, the timing of it is much better, the position that we get [into], the threat and the sense of having the capacity to create the chances that we have done is much better, and we have to keep developing that."

Arteta also highlighted Saka's penalty shootout miss in the Euro 2020 final last July as a key moment in the winger's development, as the England star continued his fine campaign with a superb strike against the Hornets.

"Bukayo had an experience in the summer that not a lot of players would ever have, and I think it was great for his career, because the football world showed how much they like him and how much they respect him," Arteta said.

"I think that was a big boost for him to realise in difficult moments that people are going to give him support. Then it's about leaving him that space [to develop]. What he is already doing is phenomenal and he needs that room, you know? Don't read too much, do what you do."

Saka, along with team-mates Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, is one of three Gunners players aged 21 or younger to have hit five or more Premier League goals this campaign.

That is a single-season feat for a team which has only been accomplished by three others in the competition's history: Chelsea in 2019-20, Leeds United in 1998-99, and Manchester United in 1995-96.

The pursuit of 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is well known.

Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have all been linked with Haaland.

The race is set to heat up, with Haaland reportedly holding a €75 million (£68m) release clause in his Dortmund contract which triggers at the end of the current season.

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD THE WAY IN HAALAND RACE

Football Insider reports that Man City are in the box seat to sign Haaland in a major development with his father Alf-Inge Haaland's connection with the club.

Alf-Inge played with City from 2000 to 2003 and is telling Erling to join the club ahead of other suitors.

City's Abu Dhabi owners are set to launch a concerted pursuit for the Norwegian and will be able to meet his release clause.

Madrid 's bid to sign Haaland may be aided by Adidas, who are associated with the club and looking to bring him on board, after his deal with Nike expired at the end of January.


ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports that Lyon are preparing a significant offer for Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Lacazette joined the Gunners from Lyon in 2017.

- El Nacional claims that Madrid are open to selling Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, who is being targeted by PSG. Casemiro is a regular but his sale may open up funds for moves for Kylian Mbappe and Haaland.

- Franck Kessie will depart Milan when his contract expires at the end of this season, reports Calciomercato, with Barcelona entering the race to sign the midfielder, and Tottenham also interested.

- Sport claims that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta already has an agreement in principle to join Barcelona on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- Edinson Cavani will exit Manchester United at the end of his contract in June, with Spain his preferred destination rather than returning to South America according to Fabrizio Romano.

Tanguy Ndombele has not tried to shift the blame for his underwhelming Tottenham performances as he accepts he is risking his career by returning to Lyon on loan.

Ndombele was a £55.5million (€62m) signing for Spurs in 2019 but re-joined former club Lyon on Monday in a temporary move that could become permanent for €65m.

The midfielder failed to show in England why Tottenham had invested so heavily in his services.

After creating 47 chances and laying on seven assists in his final season in Ligue 1, Ndombele played only 30 key passes and contributed five assists in two and a half years in the Premier League.

There were mitigating factors, with Ndombele signed by Mauricio Pochettino, who soon left to be replaced by Jose Mourinho. Nuno Espirito Santo and then Antonio Conte followed.

But the 25-year-old said on Wednesday: "It's not the fault of coaches if I had a little trouble at Tottenham.

"It's the right time for me [to return to Lyon]. For my adaptation, coming back here is the best. I hesitated: I went out through the front door, and coming back I'm taking a risk.

"If I had thought about [it hurting my pride], I wouldn't have come back. I saw the project in front of me, I saw that it was interesting for me, and for the club, too.

"But I don't think that's the easiest option. If there wasn't a good team, I don't think I would have taken that risk."

 

Lyon hope Ndombele is not the only player to return from north London this year, with out-of-contract Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette – who scored exactly 100 Ligue 1 goals for the club, at a rate of one every 150 minutes – a target.

He was one of several former Lyon men referenced as potential signings by Jean-Michel Aulas when presenting Ndombele to the media.

"In our context, [Lacazette] is more affordable than Benzema," Aulas said. "We have to try to see if we can do it as a free player, but we won't be alone."

Aulas also discussed outgoing transfers, with Ndombele set to replace star man Bruno Guimaraes, who departed for Newcastle United.

"Newcastle's first request for Bruno, we refused it," Aulas said. "It seemed logical to us.

"Events made us think differently then. We're happy with the deal, coming out of a difficult pandemic period for all clubs. We turned a weakness into an opportunity."

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