Alexandre Lacazette Shows Wenger Why He Should Start Against Spurs

lacaAlexandre Lacazette scored twice for France in their 2-2 draw with Germany, and by this point in time, nobody could’ve been surprised by his performance. After all, this is the man who, with 30 goals across all competitions, has netted more often than any other Frenchman in 2017. That puts him ahead of football’s newest superstar, Kylain Mbappe, who sits on 27 goals, and Antoine Griezmann, who has 25. Given how highly those two players are rated, Lacazette’s numbers are impressive, especially when you consider that his club boss, Arsene Wenger, has been reluctant to start him in Arsenal’s biggest matches this season.

Against Germany, Lacazette showcased the qualities he brings to the table. He’s obviously a good finisher who makes excellent runs in and around the area, but what stood out, at least initially, was his link-up play. He demonstrated an uncanny ability to drop short to receive the ball, and once he had it coming towards him, he scanned his surroundings quickly in order to play accurate first-time passes. This is something that allows him to thrive in possession, whether it be in tight spaces or when attempting to kickstart counter-attacks, and he highlighted this 27 minutes into the match.

Here, the ball spilled out to the edge of the French area following a deflected Mesut Ozil shot. Two Germans converged upon it quickly, but then Lacazette, as if out of the blue, nipped in to get there first. Not only that, but he didn’t even need a touch to steady himself. He played a short, sharp pass to find Anthony Martial tearing into an open field. The Manchester United man should’ve done better from there, but he waited too long to play in Kylian Mbappe, which led to an offside call.

Even so, this is what Lacazette can do in the link-up game. He has the vision to spot nearby runners and the technique to find them with a short pass. As his Arsenal teammate Aaron Ramsey put it recently, “He’s very technically good, he’s very clean with his touches and his link up play and he’s a great finisher.” Ramsey went onto add that Lacazette “likes to come a bit deeper sometimes” as a means through which to “try to link up the play and feed players in,” and his performance against Germany illustrated this beautifully.

Of course, when it comes to Lacazette, his pure ability in front of goal has to be mentioned as well. This is a guy who has all of the attributes required in the final third, from pace and power to strength over the ball and finishing. Throw in some impressive movement, and it’s easy to see why Arsenal parted with £52 million in order to secure his services. He rolled a lot of these qualities into one moment early on against Germany, as he initially used his low centre of gravity to pinch possession from two German players in the middle of the field.

That gave him the opportunity to break forward against an unset opposition defence, and with a combination of speed and quickness in the dribble, he breezed by Mats Hummels with little trouble. He shot from range soon after, firing a fierce drive towards goal. This time around, German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp managed to produce a strong diving save, but it wouldn’t be long until Lacazette opened his account.

That goal, which gave France a 1-0 lead, was only a tap-in for the Frenchman, but his second was more impressive. Here, he curtailed his run in behind the German defence, waiting for Mbappe to sort his feet out. Once the ex-Monaco man had done so, Lacazette darted in behind the onrushing Antonio Rudiger, who had moved out from centre-back in a bid to apply pressure higher up the field. Mbappe wasted no time in sliding a pass in Lacazette’s path, and now one-on-one with the keeper, he stormed into the area to score with a hard, low and precise strike.

He then immediately sprinted over to Griezmann, his good friend, to celebrate his brace, and at that point in time, Arsenal fans were probably wondering why he hasn’t featured from the start in some of Arsenal’s biggest games this season. Last weekend, he initially watched on from the bench against Manchester City, and, almost as if to confirm his quality, took only nine minutes to score after being brought on in the second half. He’s also the Gunners’ top scorer this campaign, having netted six times so far, which suggests he’s settling in well.

So why is Arsenal’s new acquisition, who they acquired for a club-record fee, sitting on the pine when it comes time to play against the league’s other heavyweights? It’s an interesting question, and though it could have something to do with Wenger wanting to play those who have been around a bit longer, and therefore those who have developed a strong understanding, it may also have little to do with him at all. It may, in fact, be a decision based around team balance. Alexis Sanchez, as good as he is, has a tendency to turn the ball over, and while that might not matter against smaller sides, it can be worrying against the more accomplished ones.

That might convince Wenger to start Sanchez, clearly one of Arsenal’s best players, as a striker, chiefly because it means he won’t be losing the ball quite so frequently in midfield. It also allows Wenger to play a stronger defensive presence in the attacking midfield slot, someone like an Alex Iwobi, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that Lacazette should be the one to miss out.

By now, he has shown that he tracks back with intensity, and when it comes to scoring goals, he’s Arsenal’s best option at this point in time. That’s important, because in some of the bigger matches where Wenger has favoured a more defensive line-up, the Gunners could’ve used a bit more firepower up top. Wenger will probably have reflected on this over the international break, especially after watching Lacazette score twice for France.

This leaves him with an interesting choice for Arsenal’s next Premier League encounter, which will be played against bitter rivals Tottenham. It’s another big game and, if Wenger goes with Lacazette, another chance for the Frenchman to produce on the big stage. Whether he starts will be the question most observers will be asking in the lead-up, and most of those people will be of the opinion that he should.

Now it’s down to Wenger to let Lacazette show what he’s got.

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