Alexandre Lacazette is hitting form at the right time for Arsenal.
Up there with the most maligned players in the squad this season, the turnaround seen from the Frenchman has been surprising to say the least.
Is it, though?
Alexandre Lacazette evokes similar feelings to Olivier Giroud – not in playing style, physical stature or hotel room antics, mind you – in that fans may not fully appreciate what he can do/has done until he’s gone.
He’s now up to nine goals for the season, a ratio just shy of one in every two games, with four in his last three Premier League fixtures. As per usual when any player finds themselves in something of a hot streak their future comes into question, whether it be moving on or signing a new deal.
Arsenal opted against selling Lacazette in the summer, a decision largely criticised given the performances he showed during the early season struggles. All of a sudden back in the goals, has his magic touch been born out of personal improvements and faith from his manager, or the result of a team structure more suited to his skillset?
Lacazette’s best scoring seasons for Arsenal were unsurprisingly his first two, at that point being more athletic and quicker off the mark. It doesn’t matter what position you play in, both those traits make a considerable difference.
Apart from that, in terms of the team around him, he had support from midfield. Actual bodies joining him in the box. The main man during those two terms was Aaron Ramsey, the profile of player that Arsenal have yet to replace.
Ramsey made a name for himself as a midfielder who loved making perfectly timed runs from deep and supporting those in front of him. In Emile Smith Rowe there is someone who is showing early signs of similar traits.
Instead of a previously flat, deep midfield pivot of Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka, with Bukayo Saka drifting wide, there is Smith Rowe to open up spaces either side of Lacazette. Still, even despite coming under severe criticism this campaign, Lacazette had found himself on the scoresheet to prove that his eye for goal hadn’t been lost entirely.
Now, with support from midfield and extra bodies in the box, he isn’t weighed down by multiple markers. No centre-forward, not least one of Lacazette’s stature, can operate without movement in and around them. Now players move in front of him, he can drop off into the pockets where he’s most threatening to finish chances.
Lacazette is a centre-forward who plays best alongside a second striker. Arsenal don’t utilise two No. 9’s, so having bodies support him from midfield is the next best thing.