Arsenal played Stoke on Sunday and Alexandre Lacazette returned to inject pace, directness, and attacking intention from the bench. His confidence, clearly, is making strides.
He still has a long way to go until he is there, but Sunday’s game was a good start for him, scoring a penalty late in the game to secure the three points for the Gunners against Stoke City, setting him up perfectly for his assumed starter on Thursday against CSKA Moscow.
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Lacazette may not have had the greatest of seasons so far, but patience is required. With more confidence and more playing time, he could become a bonafide starter. But strikers need confidence and that comes from scoring goals. That means he needs the players behind him to feed him balls into those spaces behind the defence that he loves to exploit so frequently. If Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can do that, then he’ll score freely and his confidence might just begin to flow.
In January, Arsenal signed Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That signing should have drained his confidence. I’m sure it did, to some extent. But against Stoke, Lacazette looked great alongside Aubameyang. He was extremely lively alongside the former Dortmund man, continuously picking up loose balls and exchanging passes, almost like they’ve been playing together for years. Maybe in the next Premier League game against Southampton, they could start up front together, if that’s at all possible.
He is sure to be acting like a man-on-a-mission. He has been out for a while and has lost his place in the starting XI to a club-record signing. Lacazette may be the leading scorer with 10 on the year, but Aubameyang, with a record five goals in six games, isn’t far behind.
The Frenchman needs to step his game up to be able to compete with the blistering striker. Both individuals will push one other for the rest of season, hopefully giving Arsene Wenger selection headaches coming up to the next game. If Lacazette gives a good enough performance against CSKA Moscow, maybe he could be in with a shout of a Premier League start.
Lacazette was afforded some first-team minutes today against Stoke and really impressed. He looked most likely to grab a goal, running the channels and giving the defenders a threat to be consistently aware of. His confidence should be sky-high after today.
And so, the battle for the striking role continues for the remainder of the year. Wenger will have some decisions to make the Southampton game on whether to go with Aubameyang or Lacazette.