In every transfer window for the past few seasons, Arsenal fans all across the world have cried out for signing of a goal-scoring central forward. Just two days ago, the fans finally got what they wanted: Arsenal announced the signing of Alexandre Lacazette from Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais. Despite the Lyon president previously stating the player’s price at over €65 million and Arsene Wenger’s known reluctance to spend big bucks on a striker, Arsenal were able to secure Lacazette for around £45 million. Arsenal as a club will hope that Lacazette will be worth his big transfer sum, helping them to defend their F.A. Cup title, achieving success in the Europa league, and returning them to the top 4 – perhaps even propelling them to a Premier League title. However, what can Arsenal fans expect from their new player? This article will look at Alexandre Lacazette’s potential contribution to Arsenal in detail, outlining some of the specific benefits the Frenchman can bring to the Gunners in this upcoming season.
Since Robin Van Persie’s departure to fierce rivals Manchester United in 2012, Arsenal has lacked a center-forward capable of giving them a consistent supply of goals. Olivier Giroud has been heavily criticized since his arrival in north London for his inability to perform consistently in front of goal. While Giroud does make up for this in his hold-up play and ability to bring other players into the game, the striker has become infamous in past seasons for wasting clear cut chances. Alexis Sanchez has only been employed as striker for part of his career at Arsenal, and he is a consistent contributor to Arsenal’s goals – at times carrying Arsenal through matches by himself. While Alexis is in many ways Arsenal’s best option up front, he personally prefers coming inside from the left side of the field as opposed to starting centrally, and with his uncertain future at the club, he cannot be relied on as Arsenal’s main striker. Consistent goals from the striker position has been a key reason why Arsenal have not achieved the success they have so desired in the past few seasons.
In his past 3 seasons with Lyon, Lacazette has scored more than 20 league goals, finishing off this past 2016/17 season with his highest tally yet – 37 goals in all competitions. In fact, since he began being employed as a central striker at Lyon in 2013 (he previously played on the wing), he has netted more than 15 league goals a season. Perhaps the most compelling statistic that speaks for his consistency is that this season he never went more than two games in League 1 without scoring. Lacazette is without a doubt a consistent goalscorer, and if he can translate the consistency he has had in France to the Premier League, Arsenal will have finally found the reliable center-forward they have craved for so long.
Versatile Goal Poacher
Arsenal are very good at controlling games and creating lots of chances, and are particularly adept at doing so in and around the box. The archetypal “Arsenal play” involves some splitting through ball with intricate one-touch passes through the opposition, effectively passing the ball until someone can walk it into the goal. However, they often lack a player to do what seems simple: putting it in the back of the net. Of the 37 goals Lacazette scored this season, 11 were penalties. The majority of his other goals came from inside the box, usually involving him putting the final touch on a passing play orchestrated by his teammates into the back of the net. While for some this may be a source of criticism, it is in fact exactly what Arsenal need: someone who knows where to show up in the box to execute the final finish. With a conversion rate of 38.9%, the highest of any player netting 20 or more goals in Europe’s top five leagues, Lacazette is a player with a remarkable eye for goal. While this statistic is definitely aided by the number of penalties he has converted, it is still impressive, and Arsenal will hope that Lacazette can continue this ruthless finishing into the 2017/18 season.
However, Lacazette is by no means a pure goal poacher, or a one dimensional player. He has incredible pace, a tricky dribbler, and boasts a formidable first touch that allows him to deal with difficult passes inside the box (as shown below).
Another contribution he can bring to the Gunners is his versatility in positioning. Not only is Lacazette a world-class striker, but he has over 50 games of experience playing on the wing, able to play on both the left and the right. With the way Arsenal’s attackers adopt positional freedom to allow for creative playmaking, Lacazette’s ability to play in a plethora of attacking positions will allow him to adapt well to the Arsenal style of play. Additionally, if Wenger continues to utilize the 3-4-3 formation that he switched to at the end of the 2016/17 season, Lacazette will likely be able to play in any of the 3 forward positions. While he will mostly play in the central role, Lacazette positional versatility are just another benefit he can bring to Arsenal.
Keeping Alexis Sanchez
Perhaps the greatest contribution that Lacazette can give to the Gunners is another reason for Alexis Sanchez to remain at the club. Alexis has changed Arsenal since his arrival in 2014: he is a unique player with a unique attitude; his hunger and passion for the game is unparalleled. No matter what the situation, whether he is charging up the field with the ball, making runs inside for his teammates, or tracking back on defence, Alexis plays every minute like it is his last. This commitment and desire to win has spread into the other Arsenal players, who since his arrival have appeared to work harder on the field, on and off the ball. Alexis has also contributed significantly in terms of goals and assists in each of his past three seasons at the Emirates, and particularly this past season, where at times he has seemed to be the sole savior for the Arsenal team. A player of Alexis’ caliber has no business not playing Champions League football, and therefore it is no wonder that Alexis’ future at the club is uncertain. While a move away from the club seems likely, it is still a mystery whether he will transfer away this season or move once his contract has expired. If the latter occurs, it still gives Arsenal time to convince the player to change his mind. The only way to do so is to bring Alexis what he wants: wins, success and trophies. Lacazette’s high-profile signing is not only a statement by the club of their desire to compete for trophies, but his potential contribution to an F.A. Cup, Europa League, or Premier League title could keep Alexis happy, convincing him to sign a new contract with the club. If Lacazette is able to bring Arsenal success, and this success convinces Alexis to sign a new contract with the club, Lacazette will have been an invaluable signing.
Despite not being in the Champions League in the 2017/18 season, with all that Lacazette can bring to Arsenal, the upcoming season looks to be exciting for Arsenal fans. Expectations will weigh heavy on Lacazette’s shoulders, but with a full preseason to work into the team, hopefully he will be able to get off to a good start at Arsenal. If he can start well and maintain a consistent level of form, he will quickly become a fan favorite, and if he can bring Arsenal any continental or domestic league success, he will become a club legend.