Arsenal look set to challenge for greater things next season as they sign £52.7m man Alexandre Lacazette as their record signing, The Frenchman is just the kind of player the Gunners needed to try and look for glory in the upcoming season.
Ever since the transfer of Robin Van Persie to Manchester United in 2013, the Gunners have been without a World-Class No9. Although Alexis Sanchez is a player of world-class ability and he did play as a No9 for a lot of last season, Wenger returned him to his natural playing position by the end of the season with Olivier Giroud spearheading the Gunners.
Giroud has been met with much criticism since he was signed, although he is a good center-forward, he isn’t deemed as the man to take them to the top of the Premier League table. Amazing at times, inconsistency has been the issue with Olivier Giroud as he fails to deliver on a regular basis; something Lacazette might offer.
For a very long time Arsene Wenger’s means of vindication for the second part of his tenure have been to win the Premiership, something the Gunners have been unable to do since 2004. ? Wenger tried and failed to sign Luis Suárez from Liverpool in 2013, following Giroud’s first season in north London and then there was the Sánchez experiment up front last season.
The peculiar aspect when comparing Giroud and Lacazette, is the preference of Giroud as the number two striker ahead of Lacazette by Didier Deschamps for the French National Team. Deschamps has said that his preference of Giroud is not a swipe at Lacazette rather he prefers Giroud’s style of play. Giroud is a more traditional striker with strong hold-up play, while Lacazette more of a mobile predator up front.
It might also be pointed out that Deschamps has an excess of riches up front, with his other choices including Kylian Mbappé, Kévin Gameiro, Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial and Ousmane Dembélé. And that is before Karim Benzema is factored in. Benzema is technically available for selection having been dropped for Euro 2016 after he was questioned by police in connection to an alleged blackmail attempt against his then France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena. It seems unlikely that Benzema will return while Deschamps is in charge.
It has, nevertheless, been possible to feel Deschamps has not fully trusted Lacazette; that he has been sceptical about whether the player possesses the requisite class. There has also been the view that Lacazette may be more effective as an impact substitute for France, which can impact negatively on a player’s psyche.
Lacazette has been at the top of the game in Ligue 1 for the past three years and there are those in Lyon who think that the 2014-15 season was his best one, when he formed an irrepressible partnership with Nabil Fekir, a touch player, who shares certain qualities with Mesut Özil. Lacazette scored 27 league goals that season and 31 overall but most believe it was last season when he took his football to the next level and changed people’s perceptions.
Lacazette’s hold-up work improved greatly last season and Arsenal are getting a striker who can pretty much do it all – apart from dominate in the air. A converted right winger, he can play off the No9 as well as in the No9 role and he is defined by his movement off the ball, work rate, pace and technique, as well as by his goal instinct. He loves to get into the box with little one-twos and the comparison that has done the rounds in English football circles has been to Ian Wright. More fleet of foot than Giroud, he will bring a different dimension to Wenger’s formation, whether it be 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or the 3-4-2-1 seen in April and May.
Physically, it will be interesting to see how he copes with the Premier League and one thing is very clear – the pressure on him will be huge, particularly if Sánchez is prised away and the team have to replace his goals and assists.
Does Lacazette indeed take the Gunners to the next level? He will be closely watched next season as the pressure piles on.