The Lacazette Conundrum: Balancing The Short-Term And The Long-Term
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
With Aubameyang’s long-awaited contract announcement done and dusted, Arsenal are looking to bring in reinforcements in midfield over the next fortnight but there is one uncomfortable saga that looms in the background and one that is going to come up a lot over the next few months. With just under two years remaining on his contract, the future of Alexandre Lacazette needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
The short-term ambition is to get back into the Champions League through any means and build on our long-term objective to win domestic and continental titles.. Lacazette will be 31 at the end of his contract and this requires choosing between the short and long term.
The next couple of seasons Could be the so-called ‘prime years’ of his career and he has the potential be an integral member of the team. So, he could help us to achieve our short-term goals. But, it’s all about the long-term plan with Arteta and the club is looking to match up experience with the emerging talent.
Beyond his contract, it doesn’t make financial or footballing sense to offer the Frenchman a new contract on improved terms like Aubameyang. Unless the player is willing to lower his wage demands significantly on a new deal, it’s an enormous risk for the club to take on. Our long-term plan is about competing to win the league in two to three years and this would require the majority of our squad would have to be at or close to their peak.
Additionally, ideally, we would want to maintain that level for as many years as possible and this should especially be true about our attackers. Aubameyang just seems to be getting better with age so the exception could be made for him but Lacazette doesn’t fall into that category and therein lies the conundrum.
Physically, there are concerns as well. His struggles with the intensity of our play beyond the hour mark are well-documented and this doesn't help our case regarding our struggles controlling games in the second half.
The player has admitted that injuries held him back over the course of the 2019-20 season but this is an issue we’ve seen under multiple managers since he signed in 2016. He was forced to adapt his playing style from his days at Lyon to a more hold-up, deeper-lying striker but if this issue is visible during his ‘peak’ years then it’s only going to become tougher.
By example, his goal against West Ham on Saturday was a smart one with the player moving away from the Hammers' defenders for a free header. However in the second half, it was a different story. There were numerous occasions where Auba and Saka were free on the left touchline but there was no one for the cutback with Lacazette himself moving around the edge of the penalty box rather than rushing in to the 18-yard-box to provide a finishing touch.
In terms of alternatives, Nketiah offers something different in that role but he is certainly not ready to assuming Mikel Arteta's striking mantle. The Englishman does have the ability to run in behind or in the channels, which are useful attributes as a substitute. Nevertheless, he still needs to work on his hold-up play and coolness in front of goal if he wants to become our first choice number nine.
One aspect which is perhaps missing in our attacking positions is the lack of an aerial threat from crosses and deadball situations. Considering Nketiah’s attributes, perhaps Arsenal are better off looking at players who can hold the ball up, strong aerial presence, and importantly, somebody young.
As the links with Odsonne Edouard and Patson Daka suggest, Arsenal are looking into this type of a profile but first and foremost, a decision regarding Lacazette’s future has to be made. Perhaps cashing in on him either now or in January and using some portion of the cash to strengthen in midfield could be the way to go. Bringing a younger striker now rather than midway through a rebuild seems to be the best possible option, thereby prioritising long-term over short-term.