Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal. How would we, as supporters, define his stay with our club thus far?
Would we say that he has fulfilled his potential? That he carried on his wonderful showings with Lyon and maintained them while wearing red and white?
Or would we point to that time in his career where he was a goalscoring machine for the French club, earning recognition via regular Les Bleus callups?
It is certainly true that in terms of goalscoring, Lacazette has not quite managed the frequency of net-bulges that he managed with Lyon.
This season has been a renaissance of sorts for the French striker. The 29 year old has fought his way from being sidelined for selection, to arguably one of the first names you would put down in a crunch clash. His 16 goal involvements (13 goals and 3 assists, correct at the time of writing) from 34 games in all competitions is a more than respectable ratio for a striker who is not just a number 9, despite the number on his shirt saying otherwise.
But last season was nearly his undoing at Arsenal – and it shows why stats aren’t the fully fleshed indicators they cracked up to be. 19 goal involvements (12 goals, seven assists) in 39 games is again, a decent spec for a striker. But as fans, we all know that last season, Laca’s famous first touch deserted him and his confidence that allows him to adapt and score those memorable goals had also left town. Youngster Eddie Nketiah stole a march on the once French international and Laca spent his time cheering on his teammates from the subs bench.
The season before? 32 goal involvements from 49 games (19 goals and 13 assists) in all comps. So, some stats do carry weight. Laca was on fire this season and he rightfully won our Player of the Season Award for leading the line superbly.
But that was a different Lacazette. Look at the same player this season. His previous high number of assists shows that he adds value with his build-up play in and around the box. He makes runs that create space for others and can hold up play for late runners. He certainly did that, but this season, with just three assists to his name but more than four times as many goals, it shows that the old, predatory, Lyon striker is showing himself.
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struggles for goals, your side may well be in trouble. The Gabon hitman isn’t quite hitting the heights this season but Lacazette has stepped up in his stead and carried the torch. And yet at the start of this season, if we were asked if we would have sold Laca to gather funds for a central midfielder, or defender, or even simply another striker? Most would have accepted it.
It isn’t that Laca isn’t well liked either. His previous POTS award in 2018/19 shows that we know what he can bring. Which then highlights last season’s poor show. When we needed him, he for once, didn’t show.
But he is certainly standing up and being counted this season, as our struggles continue. Lacazette has not only ousted young Eddie in the striking stakes, but Aubameyang is now being overshadowed.
We did have another striker who delivered much more than goals to the side. Sharing the same nationality too. Olivier Giroud was a great striker for Arsenal who refined the near post run, had fantastic awareness and could play in almost any system, given his special first touch. Sound like anyone? Yet, despite their similarities, Lacazette has shown that when we need his goals, he has been able to keep the supply going.
Lacazette’s contract is up soon. Do we keep him? Do we continue to enjoy the fact we can rely on Laca to change the game on the pitch?
Or do we sell, get maximum value and reinvest?
The real question is, could we replace a player who not only brings goals and assists to the party, but also performs in the big games?
What would you do?