Didier Deschamps’s squad announcement of the French squad for the World Cup in Russia gave us a familiar sight : Alexandre Lacazette’s name amongst the reserves, just like in 2014 and 2016. This snub was probably the most painful, as Lacazette fought back after knee surgery to finish the season with a bang but ultimately, his injury and poor form over the winter period cost him his place. The Frenchman ended the season with 17 goals and 5 assists in 39 appearances, as Arsenal’s top scorer.
He waited for 3 straight summers for his big money moves, as interests from big clubs failed to materialise, with doubts over his physical ability and his adapation out of his comfort zone in Lyon. Until Arsène Wenger finally snatched him for 60M€ in july 2017, finally a big club trusted him enough to take the risk. It was a decent season as he adapted to the league, it’s never easy to leave his boyhood club, especially at 26, but he fought hard, learned the language, improved physically, to the point where he was able to play full games at the end of the season. Contrary to common belief in England before his arrival, pace isn’t his main attribute, he’s a very good all-round footballer, capable of playing between the lines and in tight spaces while being deadly in front of goal.
However, even after all those improvements, there’s a threat to his starting place : Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal chose to splash 60+M on another striker in january to bolster their attack, and even though Aubameyang had a terrific start to life in England, one can wonder as to what it means for Lacazette’s future at Arsenal. The Gabonese can play out wide, and he has done that a few times but it’s unlikely that it’ll be a long-term solution. Lacazette hasn’t put a foot wrong but he’s still the most likely to get the axe from the starting line-up in Emery’s preffered 4-2-3-1.
The Gunners now have two of the most prolific strikers in Europe of the last 5 seasons, the excitement for their partnership is as high as ever, yet it’s unlikely that they’ll both play together next season. Unai Emery usually plays a 4-2-3-1 and Aubameyang is expected to get the nod upfront. He might not necessarily be the better finisher but his pace and movement in the box are likely to be preffered to Lacazette’s all round play. His chances at the start of the season will surely come in the League Cup and the Europa League
This begs the question : What now ?
Lacazette has fought numerous challenges throughout his career, whether it was at Lyon or in London, it is clear that he wants to play for Arsenal and be a starter, which is the right mentality, but the club might think about it twice if a solid offer arrives, as Arsenal still need a centre-back, a central midfielder and a goalkeeper. Having two strikers of this calibre is of course a luxury but they are indeed too good to keep one as a second choice, especially as Lacazette doesn’t have a good record as a substitute like Giroud had.
Our number 9 is now at a crossroads in his career, he is fully expected to stay and battle for a place, even if it means pushing Aubameyang out wide if he manages to make himself irreplaceable. City have managed to play with Aguero and Gabriel Jesus this season, which is the path that Emery will most likely follow. The fact that there’s no definite starter on the left side might help his cause, as Aubameyang could slot in there, freeing a place for the Frenchman. It will not be as easy as he thought when he arrived as an automatic starter, but Lacazette has everything it takes to be a success at the Emirates.
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