Alexandre Lacazette has received a tidal wave of criticism for his sporadic form at Arsenal.
On top of that, he hasn’t quite lived up to his reputation with Lyon. However, the French striker has scored three goals in three for Arsenal and is thriving in this new-look attack.
Arsenal fans are a fickle bunch. A few months ago Alexandre Lacazette was being vehemently pushed out of the club by supporters for his lack of consistency. Likewise, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was viewed as Arsenal’s savior, without whom the club would surely slip into liquidation.
Presently, we find ourselves in a situation where the roles are slightly reversed and fans are clamoring to see Lacazette start ahead of Aubameyang, with the latter receiving similarly negative attacks from his own support base.
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This spastic knee-jerk reaction is of course slightly ridiculous and underlines a larger issue that comes with the social-media-driven aspect of football fandom. Trends spring up around players every day. It can quickly become fashionable to make a player the butt of a joke rather than show patience and support during their periods of bad form.
Lacazette has always been a good striker, just not a great one. The Frenchman is not the type of player who drags the rest of the team forward on the merit of his ability. Honestly, a £50m price tag doesn’t guarantee that quality in this day and age. He is a player who can be extremely effective when his attributes are accentuated.
If anyone were to examine Lacazette’s Arsenal record critically, they may not find a prolific scorer but they will find a center-forward with a healthy collection of very well-taken goals against stiff opposition. The decision to buy Aubameyang and Lacazette within six months of each other was obviously a short-sighted and slightly panicked move. However, over the years fans can now see that both players have very different strengths and qualities. Right now, it is Lacazette’s turn to carry the load.
Arsenal’s playing squad has evolved sometimes for the better but all too often for the worse in recent years. In Arsene Wenger’s final season the club suffered a grave loss of identity that sent the team into a downward spiral. Unai Emery clutched at straws for as long as he could and ironically the current Villareal boss was probably the best at optimizing both strikers. Mikel Arteta has shown faith in both players, but Lacazette has not truly ever found his shooting boots under the current manager. Until now.
With intelligent, dedicated, and pacey players running off of him, Lacazette has been able to shine in recent games. Arteta toyed with deploying the Frenchman as No.10 with the captain or Eddie Nketiah ahead of him, but that system was simply misguided.
He is a player who thrives on quick decisions, swift interplay, and intelligent positioning to hurt opposition defenses. Those qualities were on full display against Chelsea. Dropping deep and allow Emile Smith Rowe to run ahead of him, he also played well-timed wall passes with Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Most importantly, Arsenal’s No.9 was able to focus on the mental side of the game rather than the physical.
This couldn’t be better demonstrated than by his winning goal against Brighton. With Saka making a phenomenal run from the halfway line, Lacazette was able to intelligently lose his marker with a well-timed double move. While Aubameyang may have a better overall collection of abilities, there is no cleaner striker of the ball at Arsenal Football Club than the 29-year-old. His touch and precise finish bent into the near post was a trademark dead-eye shot. The entire move was made because of the combination of and his penalty-box movement Saka’s directness, which Willian and Nicolas Pepe lack.
Lacazette further underlined his quality with a silky brace against West Brom. The Frenchman was rewarded for his exceptional play by bagging two true poacher’s goals in the second half, but it was his contribution to Arsenal’s second goal that really stood out on the day. Combining brilliantly with Saka and Smith Rowe, Lacazette reminded fans of a former French striker who made a living playing sleek one-touch football.
There will be a massive part to play for Aubameyang before this season is complete, but at the moment the current attack is set up perfectly for Lacazette to succeed.