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Lacazette – What’s The Deal?

Alexandre Lacazette has just turned 30 and has one year left on his Arsenal deal. Most clubs trying to step up from eighth place in the Premier League to Champions League level would take the transfer fee and scout a younger, faster and hungrier upgrade. Someone that can offer a vertical threat, hold the ball up, challenge for headers, press the defence and hit the 20-goal mark. What will Arsenal do? The worry is that giving him a new contract on a big salary is the sort of safe, short-sighted deal that Arsenal have come to specialise in.

The Frenchman seems a popular player among his fellow players and fans. He is hard-working and has quite a few netbusters in his portfolio, often with a short backlift. However, he is a number nine with an average strike rate at the top level, and doesn’t offer exceptional hold-up play or the creativity of say a Roberto Firmino to make up for it.

He doesn’t have the pace to get in behind defences, goal hungriness of a poacher and height or clever movement to get on the end of crosses in a crowded box. Yes he’s had to defer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and had spells in and out of the side – but so did Robin van Persie in his early years and Olivier Giroud in his later years, both of whom regularly made an impact with their substitute cameos.

So minutes per goal is a useful guide. Lacazette’s hit rate of 171 minutes per goal is, as expected, behind elite goalscorers Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Aubameyang and van Persie. But instead of being in the next tier where Arsenal need their forward to be, he is firmly back in the pack (and not too far ahead of much-maligned Nicklas Bendtner, who was never first choice and was bizarrely deployed on the wing by Arsène Wenger for a while).

Minutes Per Goal – Strikers That Played Under Wenger + Selected Others

Minutes per goal for Arsenal – all strikers that played under Arsène Wenger + selected other attacking players. Thierry Henry, van Persie, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Kanu, Bergkamp, Giroud, Adebayor, Podolski, Alexis Sanchez, Anelka, Walcott, Bendtner, Robert Pires, Arshavin, Reyes
Source: For Arsenal (all competitions). NB: Stats do not appear complete for late 1990s but enough to show trends.

Lacazette was bought in summer 2017 for a club-record £50m with the aim of being an upgrade on Giroud, who was sold in the subsequent transfer window. However, Lacazette hasn’t offered a significant step up in mobility or pace, while Arsenal lost Giroud’s aerial threat and link-up play. Giroud’s 153 minutes per goal at Arsenal, admittedly in a more creative team, is far superior to Lacazette’s 171. As a sidenote, both have since won an FA Cup with their new clubs, although the former has also added the World Cup, Champions League and Europa League.

Six months after Lacazette arrived, Arsenal broke their record transfer again when they bought Aubameyang. Imagine if Arsenal had signed Aubameyang as a team/squad compliment to Giroud and invested the Lacazette £50m on a quality centre-midfielder and centre-back? Given the price paid and return, the Lacazette deal has gone under the radar – it is not in the top ten list of Wenger’s worst signings (and to be clear, worst signings not worst players – ie taking into account the price paid, what the money could have been spent on and what Arsenal needed at the time) but deserves an honourable mention. Mikel Arteta and Edu should thank Lacazette for his service – and an improved season just gone where his strike rate hit 144 minutes per goal – but sell and upgrade.

Alexandre Lacazette stats

Arsenal (2017-21): 65 goals in 170 games (17, 19, 12, 17 per season respectively).

Lyon (2009-17): 129 goals in 275 games.

France (2013-17): 3 goals in 16 games.

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