Ever since Thierry Henry’s departure Arsenal have been looking for a top quality striker. They had a golden year with Van Persie as the main man before he turned his back to go to United, and the search for a striker continued. However, after years of being linked with a wide array of strikers (Benzema, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Morata), they’ve finally completed the signing of one of these targets: Alexander Lacazette. The 26 year old, French striker became Arsenal’s record signing for a fee of 52.7 million pounds, blowing away the previous record of 42.4 million pounds for Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid in 2013. He joined the team for preseason training and Arsene Wenger confirmed he will debut against Sydney FC on July 13 during Arsenal’s Australia preseason tour.
Career at Lyon
Lacazette worked his way up the ranks at Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) from the youth level and made his first senior appearance in the 2009-2010 season. From 2010-2017 he was in the first team and made 242 competitive appearances netting 114 goals and 26 assists. He won the Coupe de France (essentially the French FA cup) in 2011–12 and the Trophée des Champions in 2012 (the French Community Shield).
His best individual season was in 2014-15 where he was Ligue 1’s top scorer with 27 goals and 6 assists in 33 games, and was the UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year.
His individual accolades besides his player of the year in Ligue 1 include:
- Ligue 1 Team of the Year: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2016–17
- Ligue 1 Top Goalscorer: 2014–15
- Onze de Bronze: 2014–15 (Onze d’Or is an association football award given by French magazine Onze Mondial. The bronze refers to him being voted the 3rd best player by the magazine)
- UNFP Player of the Month: December 2014, January 2015, August 2016
- UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season: 2016–17
Lacazette has represented France across all youth levels. His biggest international achievement to date has been winning the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship with the France under-19 team, scoring the match-winning goal in the final against Spain. He made his senior international debut in June 2013, scoring his first goal in March 2015. Interestingly enough he’s been kept out of the French team much of this time by his new Arsenal teammate, Olivier Giroud who he will be replacing in the starting line up most likely.
What will he bring to Arsenal
Lacazette’s biggest strengths are his finishing, dribbling, and pace. His combination of these 3 make him very valuable as current Arsenal strikers only have one or two of those qualities or are worse at those 3 across the board. Sanchez is the only player with a similar skill set, but he plays on the wing. Giroud has strength, aerial ability, and good link up play, but can’t really turn and drive at defenders with the ball or make runs in behind. His finishing is also streaky, taking some chances very well and missing sitters at other times. Welbeck has pace and power, but lacks the technical ability and finishing ability. Walcott has pace and makes some good runs, but his finishing ability is streaky and he gets knocked off the ball pretty easily.
Another aspect Lacazette adds to Arsenal is his ability to score from outside the box and his willingness to shoot rather than trying to craft the perfect chance. His speed also allows him to make runs in behind and the Arsenal team will be able to provide him with better service than he ever had at Lyon so his strengths should be further highlighted. This pace and ability to stretch a defense will also give the Arsenal midfield more room to operate and should really help the likes of Ozil, Alexis, and Ramsey. One of the biggest benefits of adding Lacazette is that he will also be able to create goal scoring opportunities on his own rather than relying on the likes of Ozil and Alexis to generate them like they had to for much of last season. His pace and work rate will also allow him to press from the front as needed.
He doesn’t have any real weaknesses to his game, however he isn’t a big, physical striker like Giroud, so will likely not be winning too many aerial battles. This is why Giroud should be kept on the squad despite many calls for him to be sold as he gives Arsenal another dimension that would very much compliment Lacazette. There is also the very slim chance that they could pair up in a similar fashion to that of Giroud and Griezemann in the French national team, but that would force Arsenal into a formation shift from their now preferred 3 at the back and Ozil would likely be forced a bit wider.
The addition of Lacazette addresses a big need for Arsenal and he should be able to net close to 20 goals in his first campaign for the club across all competitions. If he settles in sooner he could certainly see this number rise, assuming he and the other members of the Arsenal starting XI stay healthy. He should also be able to provide 5-8 assists on the year.
For overall club performance he should certainly be enough to put them back into the Champions League by getting a Top 4 spot, but there are still some other holes in the Arsenal line up that will likely prevent them from truly competing for the EPL title. One would also expect Arsenal to make a pretty deep Europa League run given their quality, especially with a striker to now take his chances more consistently.