Is Alexandre Lacazette the new French bargain for Arsenal?
Gunners Town’s own @Grooverblog chats to @Eurolyonnais
After a frustrating 15-16 season, where Arsenal failed to lift a league title obviously opened, a lot of questions remain about the offensive ability of the striking squad. Olivier Giroud wasn’t efficient enough, and neither an out of form Alexis nor a disappointing Walcott were able to fill the gap. Arsène Wenger, if not publicly blaming his players, pointed out lack of goals while linked it with Gunners season’s failure. More than ever, Arsenal is under pressure for a summer signing in striking squad. But more than ever, options are thin. Top quality N° 9 are rare, untouchable or overpriced. Or simply not good enough to bring a significant improvement to the squad.
As a long-time tradition in Wenger’s era, the French market seems to be a good place to look. One name in particular is floating around for a potential move to North London: Alexandre Lacazette, Olympique Lyonnais’s (and arguably one of the French League) best strikers over the past 2 years. Despite a disappointing first half of season, with a horrendous CL campaign following by departure of the manager, Lyon was a real contender for the French league, finishing second behind an untouchable PSG side. Lacazette was a real asset, with 21 goals in 34 games (1 goal every 141 mins), despite playing with an injury during the 4 first months of the season. This was an impressive effort to follow up a 14-15 campaign where Lacazette reached his best tally with 27 goals in 33 games (1 goal every 105 mins). That kind of performance can put you on a lot of big clubs’ radars. But can it be enough to claim a main striking role in a top team like Arsenal?
I’ve asked my friend Alessandro (known on twitter as @EuroLyonnais), a French Lyon fan since childhood to describe us what kind of striking animal Lacazette is.
“Let’s start by mentioning it has been three seasons now that Alexandre Lacazette carries the weight of the Lyon attack almost on his own. It has been two seasons now that Lacazette has scored 20 goals or more in a league known for defensive solidity throughout the continent. Strikers such as Benzema (19), Anderson (23), and Pauleta (23) never reached the outstanding amount of 27 scored by Alexandre Lacazette in the 2014-2015 season.”
“Lacazette started as a winger, with the likes of Gomis and Lisandro Lopez occupying the center forward position, with Michel Bastos and others using the left wing. His repositioning up-front with the departure of Bafetimbi Gomis to Swansea changed his career. He netted, then, 27 goals in 33 games. Playing at the top of a 4-4-2 diamond formation, his partnership with wonder-kid Nabil Fekir (who started his very first Ligue 1 campaign) was very efficient. Fekir was the creator, the sparkle, Lacazette was the finisher. The duo went on to score 40 goals and delivering 24 assists in the league, mostly to each other. At the top of the diamond were Fekir and Lacazette, with a third lad, the Spurs (*sigh*) 16€M man Njié completing the trio. What made this trio what they werewas the speed of execution of Njie and Lacazette, the technicity of Fekir and the capacity of finding each other with closed eyes.”
Following that season for Lacazette promised a bright future. But several events made the path suddenly very difficult.
“Lacazette struggled after a tough summer, amid rumours of departure, a new big salary granted him by the boss almighty Jean Michel Aulas, and disappointing new arrivals” explains Alessandro. “Lyon recruited Claudio Beauvue, 17 goals with Guingamp the previous season and Mathieu Valbuena, the French international. While Beauvue left in January for Celta Vigo after a disgusting 5 months at the club, Valbuena stayed a whole year, but their partnership never clicked”
But the main issue for Lacazette was the loss of his most efficient partner Nail Fekir.
“After a very strong start in the league, scoring 3 against Caen, Nabilon ruptured his knee ligaments playing with France against Portugal. He would be out almost all season. Lacazette had lost his partner, and a long 4 months of disappointment started” concludes Alessandro.
The following January, Olympique Lyonnais fired Hubert Fournier and put a new manager in place, with caretaker Bruno Genesio, part of the club since his early playing career, taking the first team and things seemed to be on the rails again.
“It changed the game” explains Alessandro, “Genesio introduced a new system, well known in the glorious year of Lyon’s domination: 4-4-3. Lacazette would play upfront, with 24 year old and usual sub Rachid Ghezzal (Fekir’s backup) on the right and young talent Maxwell Cornet. Ghezzal scored and assisted, Cornet replaced a long gone Njie. Lacazette was on again, also helped by the emergence of 22 year old Spanish midfielder Sergi Darder, usually a sub under Fournier. Lacazette went on to score 14 goals in the second part of the season, finishing second best in the league behind Ibrahimovic. Lyon gained a direct spot in the Champions League finishing second, a 10 spot jump in just four months.”
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Despite that run of form, Lacazette was left out of of the French squad going to the Euros. But it was obvious the striker had sent a strong signal in France and Europe. Still the question remains, would a striker with a £38M price tag be a bargain for the Arsenal? Can he fit with the Gunners’ style of play?
“A great finisher, Lacazette did not miss many games since his explosion three years ago. Most of his goals are scored from inside the box, where his strong protection of the ball allows him to have more space, while he prefers through ball to have an opportunity of having a one on one with the goalkeeper. Surprisingly, while not tall (1.75m), Lacazette has a certain capacity to play in the air and to score headers. He is also a strong penalty taker.” explains Alessandro. As described above, Lacazette is more suited to a lone striker role, with two active flankers. A system which is very similar to Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1.
Obviously the question is to bench Giroud or to play with Giroud is the last question? No chance for the later according Alessandro:
“Alongside Giroud, I see Lacazette playing in a kind of Pellé-Eder, or Giroud-Griezmann at Euros 2016 situation, the big guy deflecting the ball to the quicker one through the defence. We have never seen Lacazette playing like that but I believe he is more of a lone striker. One thing is sure: his acceleration and speed of execution would be absolutely lethal if he is to be provided with the right assists.”
That’s it for today. Thanks to my friend Alessandro, who can be found on twitter at @EuroLyonnais. Give him a follow if you dare and ask any question about Lyon or French League. And don’t hesitate to comment and share