Alexandre Lacazette has not scored in his last nine appearances, and his teammates hardly create any chances for him. Take a look at why and how Arsenal can fix it.
Lacazette arrived at Arsenal this summer after years of rumours linking him with a move to the Emirates Stadium. Gooners became ecstatic when the club announced the French forward’s arrival: the world-class forward Arsenal have lacked since Robin Van Persie had finally arrived. The club-record £48 million transfer was emblematic of Ivan Gazidis’s “catalyst for change” comment in reaction to the team’s fifth-place finish in the league, but so far this season, Arsenal are not any better off with Lacazette leading the line.
This season, Lacazette has scored just eight goals in the league, sitting behind Mohamed Salah and Alvaro Morata, who also arrived in the Premier League during the 2017 Summer Transfer Window. Arsenal fans’ main complaint about the usage of Lacazette is the fact that Arsene Wenger insists upon not letting him play the full 90 minutes of any given match. In his 23 appearances, he averages just 70 minutes per match. It is simply baffling as to why Wenger would rather introduce Danny Welbeck from the bench than play a man who scored 28 goals in 30 league games for Olympique Lyon last season. It’s equally baffling that Wenger refuses to mold the team’s tactics around the strengths of his most expensive signing.
Lacazette barely got a touch on the ball during Sunday’s match against Bournemouth, which Arsenal lost by a 2-1 score line. Bournemouth were content on sitting back and let Arsenal tire themselves out by watching the Gunners pass around the Cherries’ defence. Arsenal played with such timidity on the attack that one would think that Wenger’s side were playing against the Italian national team with Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta in their prime.
Arsenal’s lone goal came on a defence-slicing pass from Alex Iwobi to Hector Bellerin in a quick move. Had Arsenal played that way throughout the match, they would have probably left the Vitality Stadium with three points, but the generally slow, ball-stopping attack of Arsenal wasted Lacazette’s pace and agility.
Arsenal had the excitement and speed of a snail when they had the ball on Sunday, and they have looked that way since their 3-3 draw with Liverpool on December 22nd. Lacazette stands at just 5-foot-9 and based upon his stature alone, a slow-moving attack that depends on low percentage crosses will not succeed for the Gunners unless Olivier Giroud is present. Any football fan with common sense would know that the chances of Alexandre Lacazette beating 6-foot-1 Steve Cook and 6-foot Simon Francis in the air consistently over the course of 90 minutes are the same as the chances of Per Mertesacker beating Usain Bolt in a footrace.
Lacazette’s lack of initiative
Obviously, it’s not solely on the poor tactics that Wenger employs, Lacazette and his teammates do not do their best to set the ex-OL star up for success. When Arsenal have both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in their first XI, things open up for Lacazette because of the vision and passing abilities that the Chilean and the German possess. Well, Lacazette needs to start to make things happen for himself because Sanchez is on the verge of a move away from the club, and Ozil could soon follow him out the door.
As Lacazette becomes more and more frustrated throughout matches where his teammates create nothing for him, he slides deeper and takes up a de facto central midfield role so he can join the action. Rather than participating in the build-up, the 26-year-old needs to make runs in the channels and keep the defence on their toes. With his physique, it’s not possible for him to be an effective back-to-goal striker which he has proven with his poor performances in the past two months. If Arsenal stick to the slow build-up play, he should focus on attacking the posts for low crosses and latching onto through balls played in between defenders.
The France international started the season off well, with all eight of his goals scored before December 2nd. The past month and a half has been catastrophic, and the Gunners’ No. 9 must learn how to create space for himself and navigate Premier League defences that tend to play with a lot more physicality than Ligue 1 defences. He constantly lost the eyes of defences earlier in the season when he scored prolifically and thrived at getting into the perfect amount of space to finish chances that came his way. Against Bournemouth and in basically every game he played in since December 2nd, he has looked demoralized and flat-out bored.
If Arsene Wenger and his assistants decide against adjusting their tactics to get the best out of their marquee summer signing by letting him run with the ball at defences, Lacazette needs to take the initiative by training and watching game film to learn how to thrive in Arsenal’s system and in English football in general. If he does not work hard to turn this poor run of form around, then he will go down in Premier League history as a £48 million flop! It’s quite early to make a bold proclamation like that, but Lacazette has played with such a sloth-like demeanor in recent weeks that one cannot help but wonder if he has the mental fortitude to turn his poor play around.