Lacazette aims to make numbers count at Arsenal

Arsenal's club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette's style of play has been likened to that of club legend Ian Wright. The 26-year-old French striker could bring a different dimension to manager Arsene Wenger's attack next season, be it in a 4-2-3-1,
Arsenal's club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette's style of play has been likened to that of club legend Ian Wright. The 26-year-old French striker could bring a different dimension to manager Arsene Wenger's attack next season, be it in a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1 formation.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Alexandre Lacazette has the figures to press his case.

Across eight seasons at French club Lyon, the striker scored 100 goals in 203 Ligue 1 appearances and there were a further 29 in the Cups and Europe.

The supporters of his boyhood club will remember the spectacular ones, and there were a number of those, but each was marked by a particular brand of precision and ruthlessness.

They have led Lacazette to an extremely big number because never before have English football club Arsenal paid so much for a player.

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The 26-year-old's transfer fee could rise as high as €60 million (S$94.5 million) if all of the add-ons are met.

Yet, as Lacazette prepares to step into the Emirates madhouse, it distills into a single issue for him. Can he make the difference for Arsenal in their quest for a first Premier League title since 2004?

Or, to put it another way, does he have the world-class quality to do so?

  • 0.93
    Lacazette's Ligue 1 goal ratio last season, scoring 28 goals in 30 games.

Lacazette has been at the top of the game in Ligue 1 for the past three years and there are those in Lyon who think that the 2014-15 season was his best one, when he formed an irrepressible partnership with Nabil Fekir, who shares certain qualities with Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil.

Lacazette scored 27 league goals that season and 31 overall but most believe it was last season when he took his football to the next level and changed people's perceptions.

The numbers were startling: 28 league goals in 30 appearances and 37 in 45 matches in all competitions.

Previously, he had been criticised for going missing in the biggest games. Now, he rose to them.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was convinced.

Lacazette's hold-up work improved greatly last season and Arsenal are getting a striker who can pretty much do it all.

A converted right winger, he can play off the No. 9 as well as in the No. 9 role and he is defined by his movement off the ball, work rate, pace and technique, and his goal instinct.

He loves to get into the box with little one-twos and the comparison that has done the rounds in English football circles has been to Ian Wright.

More fleet of foot than Olivier Giroud, he will bring a different dimension to Wenger's formation, whether it be 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or the 3-4-2-1 seen in April and May.

Arsenal's purchase of Lacazette has been underpinned by realism. Wenger's need has been extreme to the point of desperate.

But would it have been realistic to have pushed for Monaco's Kylian Mbappe or, say, Alvaro Morata at Real Madrid?

Lacazette's detractors say if he were world class, he would have left Lyon two or three years ago and they also argue his statistics have been inflated by the number of penalties he has scored.

Of his 129 goals in all competitions for Lyon, 23 came from the spot. Hence the unkind nickname "Penalzette".

Physically, it will be interesting to see how he copes with the Premier League. And one thing is very clear - the pressure on him will be huge, particularly if Alexis Sanchez is prised away and the team have to replace his goals and assists.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'Lacazette aims to make numbers count at Arsenal'. Print Edition | Subscribe