Finally, it seems that Arsenal could be about to get their man. Three years of hard, tough and often frustrating negotiations will culminate in Alexandre Lacazette finally becoming an Arsenal player for what will likely be a club record fee. It would be a signing which screams intent. Ever since the painful departure of talisman Robin van Persie to arch rivals Manchester United, there has been a significant void left at the top end of the pitch for a club once famous for producing great strikers.
Five years have passed since the days of van Persie ended and Olivier Giroud took over in the first-team. The current Arsenal striker has done a very useful job to boot. Over the past three Premier League seasons, he has averaged a goal roughly every 131 minutes. Along with his hold up play and aerial presence, the Frenchman ‘s goals have meant that he has performed above the £12 million fee would have suggested when Arsenal signed him in 2012.
Yet there has always been a sense that that is not quite enough. For Arsenal to challenge properly for the league again, as well as compete in Europe, a striker with the ability to score consistently and have a variety of features to his game is what’s required.
Arsenal have identified Lacazette as that man. And for his goal record alone, it could prove a wise investment. Since the start of the 2013/14 season, no player has scored more times in Ligue 1 than Lacazette (91), who is now the fourth highest goalscorer in Lyon’s history and the highest in the last 30 years.
Of course, Ligue 1 does not represent the same level of intensity and quality as the Premier League, though the signs are there that the Frenchman could be the man to finish many of the chances created by the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. Given the fact that Lacazette enjoyed his best season yet in 2016/17, it seems that he is a man still on the up.
What is even more encouraging for Arsenal fans about the 26-year-old is that he has several other impressive aspects to his game, one of which is his link-up play. His ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play, as well as at times finding a better option in passing than shooting, was a key feature of Lyon’s attacks last season.
In addition, Lacazette’s movement makes him just as dangerous off the ball as he is on it. He is a regular runner in behind opposition defences and worked particularly well with Bafetimbi Gomis before the striker’s move to Swansea in 2014. This could be particularly advantageous to Özil, who thrives off using his vision and passing ability to unlock defences. It is an area that has found Giroud to be lacking in during his time at the Emirates.
Former Arsenal and Manchester Untied defender Mikael Silvestre is a keen admirer. The Frenchman told TalkSPORT:
“He (Lacazette) is very active, he can play both sides, technically he is very gifted and he has been scoring 25, 30 goals for the last four years in the French league so he is a proven goalscorer.”
At 26, Lacazette is nearing his prime years and it seems that he could be exactly the type of man Arsenal want: a player to hit the ground running as soon as possible. It also points to the fact that he is mentally and physically ready for a step up in his career.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has helped Lacazette in the past and last month praised him for his recent performances.
‘For me, what Lacazette is doing is extraordinary,’ Henry said. ‘He has become aware of his qualities and he is especially aware that he cannot be average. Congratulations to him, really.’
Arsène Wenger is known to be cautious when it comes to big signings and the fact that Arsenal have moved so early to pay such a big fee for Lacazatte shows that the Gunners boss is convinced that he has found the man to take his side to the next level. It is now up to him to show Arsenal fans what they have been missing.