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With Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette set to complete a club record £52.7 million move to Arsenal, many Gunners fans will be left thinking “is he the the man to lead our line and maybe bring the title back to the club?”
Thankfully, those of us who have spent the last few seasons watching Lacazette will be able to give Arsenal fans the comfort that Arsene Wenger has signed one of the best around.
So for all that money, what are Arsenal actually getting?
Alexandre Lacazette: Arsenal’s new boy
In a word, goals. For three consecutive seasons Lacazette breached the 20 goal barrier in Ligue 1. Not many can lay claim to that honour. Zlatan Ibrahimovic can’t. Edinson Cavani can’t. Thierry Henry can’t. You have to go back to the very early 1990s for the last player to reach that achievement in Jean-Pierre Papin.
91 – Since 13/14, Alexandre Lacazette has scored 91 goals in L1, at least 15 more than any other French player in the Top 5 leagues. Gunner? pic.twitter.com/nzL4w3IQET
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 26, 2017
Simply put, when in and around the box, Lacazette is lethal. He combines clinical finishing with superb movement. Add in pace, trickery and deceptive power, it all adds up to almost the complete article.
Whilst not the strongest in the air, he makes up for that with his understanding of where and how to find space in the box. Lacazette is at his best when dropping off the last defender to create the time and space needed to get a shot in on goal.
He’s not only clinical in the penalty area, he can be just as dangerous shooting from range, as his thunderous effort in last season’s Europa League win over Roma demonstrated.
When the 26-year-old burst onto the scene back in the 2011/12 season he was deployed initially as a winger. It was there that his speed and ability to get beyond his man were best used.
It didn’t take long for him to be repositioned as a centre forward once it became apparent how at ease he was in front of goal. In fact, his versatility is an often forgotten attribute of his. During his time with Lyon he’s played as lone striker, part of a two-man front line and as the central player in a three-man attack.
It’s playing alongside a slightly more deep lying teammate that has perhaps seen Lacazette at his best. When he bagged 27 goals during the 2014/15 season, his partnership with Nabil Fekir was one of the most exciting in Europe.
With Fekir playing a deeper role; his vision, skill and range of passing allowed Lacazette’s movement and finishing to take the plaudits. Wenger could well have taken note of that when picturing the pairing the French striker with playmaker Mesut Ozil. It’s a partnership that should have Arsenal fans salivating with anticipation.
Alternatively, if the Gunners want to play Lacazette with two wider players flanking him then he has the ability to thrive in that system too. With Arsenal recently linked to both Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, they are two who would fit those wide positions perfectly. Then again, imagine if Arsenal can keep hold of Alexis Sanchez…
There are many who will look at the number of penalties that make up part of his total goals. 10 of his 28 league goals last season were from the spot, leading to the slightly harsh moniker of “Penalzette”. They all count, as they say, and the player himself laughed off the nickname in a recent Eurosport Facebook Live interview, saying:
“It’s funny. I know there is jealousy amongst those who call me that.”
In fact, his percentage of goals scored from the spot in Ligue 1 was actually less than that of the great Zlatan – and you don’t hear anyone holding that against him.
Another common criticism of Lacazette has been his lack of goals against the bigger clubs. Arguably there’s a bit more to this argument. Of his 27 goals scored in 2014/15, none were against any of the other top five. In the following season he scored only four against the top five (and three were in one game).
However, last season he managed six, more evenly spread goals against the top five. He also added six in Lyon’s Europa League run to the semi-finals, including key goals in the games against Besiktas and Roma. Perhaps we are seeing a turning point as regards this potential weakness.
The move to Arsenal will certainly reveal if there’s any truth in that with, and no disrespect meant to Ligue 1, on average more “big games” across the season in the Premier League. In fact, the lack of recognition on the European scene is one of the reasons Lacazette cited in his desire to move on from Lyon. He said:
“I know very well that on a European scale I am not yet well recognised. I want to see if I can answer the questions that people are asking, and to make further progress.”
With the move to Arsenal, he will have ample opportunity to do that, albeit in only in the Europa League in his first season.
Finally, there are those who point to the lack of playing time at national team level. This is something Arsenal fans, in particular, will have been quick to pick up on. After all, current Gunner Olivier Giroud is proving to be Didier Deschamps’ striker of choice.
This should though prove no reflection on Lacazette’s ability as Giroud’s continued selection for les Bleus is simply a case of him being the right player fitting the right system. In Deschamp’s France set up, a tall, powerful centre-forward works best.
Whilst Lacazette can play the lone striker role well, he’s not a player who you can hit long balls into and then rely on to hold play up. With the emergence of wider players like Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappé, a central role for Lacazette could be on the cards. Especially, of course, if the move to Arsenal works as many hope it will.
Whilst some Arsenal fans would have hoped for the signing of a different French forward in Mbappé, the capture of Lacazette should in no way be seen as some consolation prize. The player has proved that even in a differing Lyon side he is still capable of finding the net on a regular basis.
By putting him in an Arsenal side surrounded by the right kind of players, there is every possibility that his run of 20+ goals a season will continue.
Arsenal fans, be excited.