The Curious Case of Alexandre Lacazette: The Striker Back in Form After a Largely Poor Season

Max Haley
Jul 16, 2020, 4:11 PM GMT+1
Lacazette netted his third goal in four games on Wednesday
Lacazette netted his third goal in four games on Wednesday / Pool/Getty Images

Alexandre Lacazette was one of the most exciting signings of the 2017 summer transfer window.

Signed to much fanfare after some goal-laden years with Ligue 1 side Lyon, much was expected of the French striker at an Arsenal side looking to reestablish itself as a top side in the Premier League.

But since then, he's had a few highs and lows, with some brilliant moments tangled up with some wretched spells in front of goal. He's back in form with three in four following his strike against Liverpool, reminiscent of how he started his spell in England.

Lacazette and Aubameyang have struck up a strong bond on and off the pitch
Lacazette and Aubameyang have struck up a strong bond on and off the pitch / Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Lacazette's Arsenal career began with a goal inside the first two minutes of his debut against Leicester in an exhilarating 4-3 win on the opening night of the 2017/18 season. But that January, Arsenal snapped up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with many expecting Lacazette's days at the Emirates to be numbered.

However, since the Gabon international joined, he and Lacazette have struck up a strong friendship on and off the pitch. This partnership was first made apparent when Aubameyang gave Lacazette a penalty in the 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow, allowing him to score his first goal since returning from injury.

He may have started the opening three games of the 2018/19 season on the bench, but Lacazette proved his worth that term and was voted player of the season by Arsenal supporters.

Lacazette celebrating his equaliser against Liverpool last season.
Lacazette celebrating his equaliser against Liverpool last season. / Julian Finney/Getty Images

But that wasn't because of his goalscoring. Though his record with Lyon may suggest he was a goal-plunderer, instead it's his link-up play that has widely been seen as his main strength. When he does score, they tend to be very important goals.

He has scored against all of the top six since joining the Gunners, with notable efforts including the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool two years ago, and three goals against Tottenham, including a thunderbolt in the 2-1 defeat on Sunday.

Thanks to recent strikes against Wolves, Spurs and Liverpool, Lacazette is now only four shy of his best league tally in north London, which was 14 during his debut campaign. But for the main part, the Frenchman's 2019/20 season has been just as painful as Arsenal's, though not necessarily through any fault of his own.

Lacazette has been a victim of Arsenal's huge underperformance this season. Unai Emery's Arsenal side were a really poor attacking outfit and because of that the former Lyon man's goal tally has suffered this term.

The Frenchman has struggled this season
The Frenchman has struggled this season / Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Emery concentrated on playing in a way that masked the team's weaknesses rather than playing to their strengths. Obviously, that approach didn't work out, and Emery was dismissed from his post in November. Lacazette's poor form was not helped by the toothless football Emery had Arsenal playing, and magically he started scoring more regularly when Mikel Arteta took over.

Nevertheless, Lacazette's goalscoring record this season is far from good enough for a striker worth £46m. His strike partner Aubameyang has 20 goals in 34 games, for comparison. He's looked bereft of confidence and his goal against Wolves was his first away from home in league action for 17 months.

The Frenchman's form was so poor that when Arteta came in as manager, Lacazette lost his place in the starting lineup to Eddie Nketiah, who had struggled on loan at Leeds in the first half of the season. However, he has more recently found himself back in the team, scoring off the bench against Wolves, putting in a strong performance despite not scoring against Leicester, netting a ripper at Tottenham and sliding past Alisson on Wednesday.

Lacazette has to fight for his place in Arteta's Arsenal team,
Lacazette has to fight for his place in Arteta's Arsenal team, / Pool/Getty Images

Lacazette may yet prove a beneficiary of Arteta's tactics, as the Spaniard clearly sees Aubameyang as a left-sided forward in the current system that Arsenal play, meaning there is a space up front for one of Nketiah or Lacazette. The teenager picked up a red card against Leicester, gifting Lacazette the opportunity to play in the three games he'd be suspended for.

Suffice to say, he's taken that opportunity.

Arsenal have a decision to make this summer, though. Aubameyang's contract is up next year and the club are rumoured to be doing whatever they can to get him signed to a new one. There are also a number of promising youngsters coming through in attacking positions too. Players like Nketiah, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli will all be expecting a substantial number of minutes next season.

Arteta will have to decide whether Lacazette will be a regular feature of his side in the future. The Frenchman has been linked with a move to Juventus recently and his deal has two years left to run, so Arsenal could use the money from selling him to help fund the much-needed rebuild that Arteta will want this summer.

While his Arsenal career is threatened, it's certainly not over yet. Lacazette has another two league games and an FA Cup semi final in which to prove his worth, and if recent form is anything to go by, you'd be a fool to bet against him.