Why Arsenal should keep Alexandre Lacazette
By Max Champness
The case of Alexandre Lacazette, and the controversy in opinions among fans, remains one of the most heavily disputed arguments amongst our supporters right now. Despite claiming the Arsenal Player of the Year award for 2018/19, Lacazette has been subject to vast amounts of criticism over the past few months, leading many fans to advocate the sale of the 28-year-old. In acknowledgement of this, I wish to prove that selling Alex Lacazette in the summer would be an unwise decision.
Although it is indisputable that Lacazette’s form and performances this season have been below the high expectations we have of him, it feels to me as if, much like Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka last season, he has been subject to a disproportionate amount of hate from our fans. As the months progressed, and our league position deteriorated, the unrest towards the Frenchman seemed also to rise, with fans raging over several big opportunities being squandered.
However, when you take a look into his stats, the levels of slander towards him would seem to be unreasonable. Although featuring in twenty league games this season, Lacazette has only racked up a total of 1,318 minutes on the pitch. In this time, he has contributed 7 goals and 4 assists, averaging a goal involvement every 129 minutes: only a marginal increase on last season’s ratio of 100 minutes per involvement.
Despite delivering worse stats than the previous campaign, Lacazette is still upholding better goal involvement ratios than some of the league’s most clinical strikers: Harry Kane has a goal involvement every 137 minutes, whilst Roberto Firmino sits at 161 minutes. Through this comparison I wish not to suggest Lacazette is a better player, but instead to show how exaggerated his season has been, depicted as ‘very poor’.
Furthermore, Lacazette’s underlying metrics suggest that he’s still maintained ruthlessness in his game and been clinical. He has outperformed his xG, scoring 7 times from 5.5 expected, which shows how he’s made more of the chances created for him, and that his finishing hasn’t actually been poor. This low xG also demonstrates the failure of the team around him to create a high volume of high quality chances for him. Whilst you could suggest it shows his inability to get into goal scoring positions, his rate of 0.37 xG/90 is still very respectable. Additionally, Lacazette’s xA/90 of 0.15 is bettered only by Nicolas Pepe in the Arsenal team, which shows he’s maintained his creativity from last campaign.
Since joining Arsenal for, at that time, a record fee of £46.5 million, it has felt like we have not truly seen the same player we bought. At Lyon, Lacazette was by all accounts the main man; in the season prior to his arrival at Arsenal, he managed 42 goal involvements in just 45 appearances, averaging a goal involvement every 83 minutes- more than one a game. In fact, over the course of his Lyon career, Lacazette was involved in 172 in 275 games: a goal involvement every 118 minutes.
This, however, begs the question: why has Lacazette not been able to replicate these stats at Arsenal? There is, of course, the cliché argument that the French league is significantly lower in quality to the English game, but it is my belief that the problem is much simpler than that.
In his time at Lyon, Lacazette played as the central forward, with two effective wingers and several creative midfielders behind him. He thrived off linkups with the midfielders and wingers, as well as crosses and through-balls. However, at Arsenal, he has been used in more of a false nine role, where he drops deep to link up the play. Due to the lack of an effective playmaker in the number ten role, the job of connecting the attack to the midfield has been adopted by Lacazette, meaning less of his time and energy is focused on fulfilling his main objective: scoring goals. To get the best out of Alexandre Lacazette, the attack must be built around him; two natural wingers and a cohesive and creative midfield supplying him.
Furthermore, after yet another outstanding season, Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been subject to interest from many of Europe’s elite teams, such as Barcelona. Not only do they offer the chance to play for possibly the biggest club in world football, but they offer what many professionals deem essential: guaranteed Champions League football and the lump-sum of money that follows.
With the chance of Aubameyang’s exit ever increasing, Lacazette may be required to stay and fulfil the role of main goal scorer at Arsenal. With Aubameyang’s price understandably high, the money gained could be best used to reinvest in the most important areas: a centre-back and a creative midfielder. Therefore, it would be essential to keep Lacazette, and hope he can find his Lyon form to fill the void Aubameyang’s exit would forge. The signing of a natural left winger, in harmony with Nicolas Pepe on the right flank and a creative midfielder, would allow Lacazette to remain higher up the field and become the threat to defenders we know he can be.
As much as I believe keeping Lacazette is the right decision in the present, an offer of a substantial amount, or a trade for long-term target Thomas Partey, would prove too enticing to reject. In the current climate of football, what with the covid-19 pandemic potentially limiting transfer activity, it would seem likely that Lacazette will stay and I would suggest this is for the better.