Arteta has spoken in the past on how he requires his centre forward to provide more fundamental traits to the team, rather than just being a ‘fox in the box’ and converting chances. Our Gabonese superstar, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is an elite goalscorer, but struggles to link play together.
This is why we have seen Lacazette favoured through the middle. Our French No. 9 possesses the ability to drop in between the lines, hold the ball up and provide a connection between midfield and attack, which is a huge appeal to our young coach.
‘If we talk about playing with two attacking midfielders, even more. They have to be a threat, constantly threatening the box and the final third, assisting, getting chances to score … it’s one of the big jobs they have.”
Reading between the lines on previous Arteta comments, it’s clear to me that he is looking to implement a system that is similar to the one Pep deploys at Manchester City. A 4-3-3 (4-1-2-3), with two advanced midfielders drifting in between the lines, building partnerships with the wide attackers and providing creativity. The figure below shows how they regularly set up.
With regards to the way Manchester City play, they are able to develop sustained patterns of play through two different ways. Building attacks from deep is what they are very renowned for. The use of inverted full backs are used to provide simple passing options for the back-line . The positions players like Kyle Walker occupy in the build up phase, sucks in opposing players, which in turn creates space for their attacking teammates to exploit. The diagram below provides a visual explanation
Because everyone is so comfortable on the ball, they can play their way out successfully through presses. We then start to see patterns develop. The centre forward, whether its Jesus or Aguero, will then hold their position, take up goal scoring positions and rely on supply lines coming through creative midfielders and the wide attackers.
We have also seen City take a slightly more direct avenue for building passages of play. This is why they are so dangerous, as there is plenty of flexibility in the way they can attack. There was a reason why Guardiola insisted on the importance of signing a modern style goalkeeper like Ederson, who is very calm on the ball, possessing excellent distribution. When teams are installing a high energy press, and looking to force the issue immediately, he is able to go long and pick out players with a flat trajectory. This is where you see Aguero or Jesus, dropping in and linking play together. We also see their top Brazilian stopper playing balls into space for players to run onto.
Now lets look at Liverpool. The system deployed is a 4-3-3, with three central midfielders who are instructed to cover spaces, win the ball back quickly and generally provide the influence out of possession. The creativity/supply lines come through the full backs. The role Roberto Firmino plays is instrumental and a huge reason why Salah and Mane are able to provide high levels of consistent productivity. He is the glue, dropping regularly in between the lines, in pockets of space and bringing others into play with his excellent close touch control.
Martial plays a similar role for Manchester United. Excellent in tight spaces, intricate one twos with his teammates and in general, connects play together.
You can see that many managers like Klopp across the top teams play with a striker who has the ability to act as a false 9. I myself, similarly to Mikel, stress the importance of players like Lacazette. They provide you with two avenues for building attacks. One is obviously playing out from the back. The other is going along the direct route, finding the centre forward and instructing him to hold the ball up. This is why we haven’t seen Aubameyang feature through the middle. Lacazette and Eddie both have been preferred by our manager to fulfil this role. Even Willock, towards the latter stages of games has played through there, and acted as a runner.
The importance of the CF in a back three
I think we will see us remaining in a back three for the start of the season. In that case, I would say that in this system, a target man is an absolute must. If we look at our first goal against Manchester City in the semi final, we saw a goal that typifies the way you can utilise a three at the back in an attacking sense.
The diagram below shows the vital role Lacazette plays in the build up for the goal. After successfully beating the tactical press deployed by City, it was then down on us to impose our game and develop an attack. Tierney plays the ball to our French forward, who drops deep, in between the lines and occupies players.
The next phase is down to the wing backs to advance forward and create width. Lacazette does very well to give it to Bellerin, who drives with the ball, before laying it into Pepe’s feet. Our Ivorian superstar then provides the next action, delivering a peach of a delivery for Pierre to convert.
If we look at Wolves under Nuno. Whether it’s a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2, the centre forward must be able to hold the ball up. Jimenez does exactly this for them, with the two inside forwards either side playing off him. Diego Costa performed a similar role in Antonio Contes 3-4-3 title winning season.
So with Arteta, I believe he sees the centre forward playing this role no matter what system we deploy, regardless of whether we attack in a 3-4-3, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 3-2-5, 2-3-5 e.c.t.
An analysis on Alexandre Lacazette
Now let’s analyse Alex in greater detail. Whilst his influence is huge, he definitely needs to improve on his numbers.
Lacazette Premier League statistics
Games played: 32
xG per 90: 0.48
xA per 90: 0.14
Games played: 35
xG per 90: 0.42
xA per 90: 0.10
Games played: 30
xG per 90: 0.41
xA per 90: 0.15
With regards to the centre forward role, I like to judge the player on two phases. Phase one is the ability to drop in between the lines and provide a link. The second phase is the next action of play, which is the desire to impact the game in the box, make unpredictable movements and placing yourself in goalscoring positions. Although Lacazette is brilliant in phase one, he must show more consistency in phase two. Far too frequently, he is slow to arrive in the box. Its a surprise as for Lyon, his game revolved around being a predator in the box, hence the high volume of goals he was consistently scoring. Ive seen Tierney and Saka on many occasions provide excellent deliveries for a player to attack the near post. This is certainly one specific movement I want Lacazette to make more off. Its a simple run for a striker to make and one that Giroud was very good at.
Obviously the contract situation of our French striker needs addressing. The fact that he is moving towards the last two years of his contract and is 29 may be reasons as to why Arsenal could look to cash in on him. If we do, then we need to bring in a player with a similar profile. My two picks are Luka Jovic from Real Madrid and Odsonne Edouard from Celtic. Either player would slot perfectly into our system.
Comment below and message me via my social media links in my bio.
23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.