After playing a starring role for Lyon, Arsenal’s new no.9 has lofty expectations on his shoulders but he has the potential to fulfil them
Big expectations come with big transfer fees and Arsenal’s £52 million outlay for Alexandre Lacazette means there is one French striker feeling the pressure this season.
“He has shown over a number of years that he can score goals and that he is a very efficient finisher,” Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said shortly after Lacazette joined the club.
“As well, he has very interesting technical qualities and a strong character.”
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The 26-year-old signed for the Gunners from Lyon on a five-year contract and his huge price tag beats the club’s previous transfer record of £42.5m for Mesut Ozil. It is a signing which Wenger has targeted for the last couple of seasons and the Frenchman is convinced that Lacazette can become Arsenal’s goal poacher – a unique quality previously lacking from the frontline.
Lacazette will wear the No.9 shirt at Arsenal and while it’s never worth reading too much into shirt numbers and the relative success which comes with them, the forward can take some courage from the fact his predecessors have hardly set Emirates Stadium alight. Jose Antonio Reyes, Park Chu-Young and Lukas Podolski are some of the names to have worn the shirt and while none of them were prolific, many Arsenal fans will be delighted in the significance of a natural No.9 being handed the ‘correct’ shirt number.
“He’s a goalscorer. Arsenal have needed a natural goalscorer since Ian Wright and now they’ve got one,” former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson recently told Goal.
Interestingly, when comparing Lacazette with Chelsea’s new striking addition Alvaro Morata, both players have the same expected goals ratio, meaning their average chance is of the same quality. These so far have been non-penalty figures because Lacazette was a low volume shooter at Lyon, reitirating that the quality of players around him weren’t as good as what Morata had at Real Madrid.
With Mesut Ozil behind him at Arsenal, the goals are almost guaranteed and Wenger will hope that his decision to keep Alexis Sanchez in north London – whether he signs a new contract or not – can help benefit that move even further.
Lacazette’s impressive record of converting the most penalties across Europe’s top five leagues last season also means Arsenal have a ‘natural’ taker on their hands, an area of weakness in the past due to players’ splitting spot-kick duties.
The French frontman who used to bunk off English lessons at school to play football is a quiet character who has never looked for fame and fortune, which may be why Wenger endeared to him so much.
But his former team-mate, Sebastien Faure, is confident he will become a star in the Premier League.
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“Arsenal have always been accused of not being able to match teams like Stoke and West Brom physically. Alexandre certainly will — he is very powerful,” Faure told The Sun.
“He went out and got a personal trainer and did lots of gym work. That work paid off because he has just got better and better.
“It will take him a bit of time to adapt to Premier League defenders but Alexandre will quickly work them out. He is great at that.
“He will have no problems making a big impact in England. Trust me, he is a far more complete player than Olivier Giroud.”
The weight of expectation has never fazed the best players and Lacazette’s composed and calm nature will leave him in good stead coming into the new domestic season. His first task is to leave his mark on a Community Shield match at Wembley against the reigning champions of England. For someone who loves playing in the biggest games, a goal against Antonio Conte’s side would be the perfect way to announce himself on the Premier League scene.