There is a theory whispered among Arsenal fans that the club’s number 9 shirt may be cursed. It’s easy to see why: Although it has been worn by notable people including Malcolm MacDonald, Charlie Nicholas and Alan Smith, its recent history is checkered at best.
Since Nicolas Anelka left under a cloud in 1999, the jersey has been in the possession of Davor Suker, Francis Jeffers, Jose Antonio Reyes, Julio Baptista, Eduardo, Park Chu-young, Lukas Podolski, Lucas Perez and most recently Alexandre Lacazette. It’s a roster that includes two club-record signings, a Brazilian international, World Cup winner, England Under-21 top scorer, and World Cup Golden Boot winner. However, a group of players, for various reasons, were greatly disappointed in the Arsenal ranks.
Since arriving from French club Lyon for a fee in the region of £50m five years ago, Lacazette has struggled valiantly to rid the No.9 shirt of his hexagram.
But despite his trustworthy record of 71 goals in 206 appearances, it is hard to conclude that he has succeeded.
There were high points.
He helped Arsenal win the FA Cup in 2020, and was named the club’s player of the year the previous season. He finished the season as the top scorer in the 2017-18 and 2020-20 season, and has a backlog that includes a memorable late equalizer against Liverpool and the decisive goal in the 4-2 win over Tottenham. He spent most of the second half of last season as club captain.
This, however, is about expectation. Lacazette could not be presented alongside the likes of Park and Perez – the strikers who were bought as players on the team, and who have proven themselves to be nothing more. The French player was signed at a price that suggested he was meant to be the heart of the Arsenal team. This never happened.
Thus, the initial recruitment of Lacazette is worth questioning.
Arsenal and then-manager Arsene Wenger looked closely at the Frenchman in the summer of 2016, opting instead to pursue players like Jamie Vardy, who had just fired Leicester to a surprise title victory. Arsenal ended up with Perez – a player Wenger was never convinced of.
The following year, with poor substitutes on the ground, he was persuaded to go to his compatriot Lacazette.
It’s impossible to talk about Lacazette’s career with Arsenal without mentioning Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
In the summer of 2017, some close to Wenger urged him to pressure to sign Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund instead. In the end, it was felt that such a deal was bypassing Arsenal at that point. Part of the appeal of Lacazette’s move was that although his transfer fee was high, the fact that he had come from French football meant his salary was relatively affordable.
Things changed in January. It is often pointed out that the signatures of Lacazette and Aubameyang in successive windows suggest an incoherent strategy. There is certainly an element of truth to that – Arsenal staff have admitted that had they signed Aubameyang first, they would not have gone to Lacazette either.
But it’s also worth considering in context: In the mid-season window in which Aubameyang was bought, Arsenal also lost Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. That’s an enormous amount of targets that need to be replaced. They needed to work.
There was a plan of some kind. The idea, backed by Arsenal poll reports, was to have Aubameyang and Lacazette together at the second lead. Sven Mislintat was instrumental in persuading Aubameyang to join and had always believed that he was someone ideally suited to work in an attacking partnership. When he initially took the Gabon international to Dortmund from Saint-Etienne in 2013, the idea was to put him in second place.
Despite the apparent chemistry on and off the field, this Aubameyang/Lacazette pairing never really caught the eye.
Unai Emery relied on him during Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final in 2019, and Mikel Arteta actually stumbled on using it during the early part of his final season. It was never an actual option. On the whole, Arsenal were not a team up front – and their partnership when trying was not so good that it required them to become one.
Thus Lacazette largely found himself playing one of two roles: either a secondary role to Aubameyang, or the role of tin to facilitate.
There were other issues with his adaptation: Lacazette apparently struggled to deal with the speed and intensity of the Premier League. Not because of the lack of trying – a few guys making a more visible effort – but the stamina was an issue. In the second half of the games, it tended to fade significantly. Arsenal fans soon got used to seeing his number 9 appear on the substitution board somewhere between the 60th and 70th minutes.
Over time, Lacazette’s style of play has seen it evolve into effectively the “False Nine” – someone who falls too deep to create overburden in midfield and link play.
This was accompanied by a decline in his scoring prowess. His shooting chart during his time in England shows a low shot volume from inside the penalty area.
Interestingly, his shots last season were from a much higher middle distance – further evidence that he was working in a deeper role and that his threat in the penalty area is waning.
Last season also saw a significant drop in the quality of his finishing touches. The Lacazette is usually reliable in front of a target, and tends to partially outperform its projected targets. In 2021-22, he underperformed considerably.
It is these trends that would have understood Arsenal’s decision not to renew Lacazette’s contract.
At the age of 31, he will now leave the club. the athlete He understands that he is ready to join Leon.
Another aspect in which this deal ultimately did not work out was that Arsenal were unable to recover any money for a player who was once his record signing.
Since Arteta’s arrival in December 2019, Lacazette has often looked like the closest available match to what the Spaniard wants from the center forward, without quite a fit. This summer, Arteta is choosing his man.
When the manager was asked in March what he was looking for in a striker, his answer was straightforward.
“He put the ball in the net, that’s priority number one,” Arteta said. “Goal threatening. Any successful team needs enough goal threatening in the team. Without it, you have nothing. You can play good football but you need enough goal threatening in the team.”
Lacazette will be fondly remembered by Arsenal’s staff and players. He was a mentor to young players, and a motivating force in the dressing room.
As the years passed, he became more interested in the club’s community and charitable projects. When letters from his supporters reached him, he would ask questions about the families who sent them. bought in . Arteta realizes that. I was informed of the decision to award him the leadership badge.
But Lacazette’s 30-match league appearance in what turned out to be a farewell season saw him score just four goals. Arteta knows that this is not enough for a team that aspires to reach the Champions League. The biggest difference between Arsenal, who finished fifth, and Tottenham, who took two more points than them to make the top four, in 2021-22 was ultimately the quality of the heart attack.
It is strange to think that upon the arrival of Lacazette it was announced as a radical replacement for the Giro.
Arsenal fans were frustrated by his French teammate’s lack of speed and inability to get behind the running. However, it soon became apparent that Lacazette’s strengths and weaknesses were no different from those of his compatriot.
Look at Giroud’s performance in the intervening years, the silverware he won for club and country and maybe Arsenal would have been better off staying with him.
(Top image: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)