Alexandre Lacazette was Arsenal’s star signing this summer, but he’s certainly not being treated like one.
If we’re giving Arsene Wenger the benefit of the doubt, maybe there was a tactical or physical reason why he left Lacazette on the bench against Manchester City. It may have been the same reason why he left the Frenchman out against Liverpool in September.
Back then, Wenger opted for Danny Welbeck instead of Lacazette. His thinking was that Welbeck’s pace and workrate made him a threat in behind Liverpool’s defence and would give Arsenal an outlet when they were pressed.
It didn’t work then, but evidently Wenger thought it was worth another go against Manchester City, another team who like to press the opposition. With Welbeck unavailable, he went for Alexis Sanchez instead, perhaps hoping the Chilean’s resilience would give him something extra.
Lacazette is new to the club and to the league, and likes to come towards the ball instead of run in behind. However, the problem with dropping him is a simple one: there’s nobody else in the team who can score.
Leaving Lacazette on the bench means leaving out our top goalscorer and a guy who can find the back of the net with just two or three shots per game. In a game where chances are precious, why wouldn’t we want such a good goalscorer on the pitch?
The fact that Lacazette came on and buried the first chance he got summed up what a farcical decision it was. It wouldn’t be surprising if he was wondering if Wenger truly rated him, because the way he’s being used suggests otherwise. He’s started eight of ten Premier League games, but has only completed 90 minutes once.
The Frenchman has now been left out of two big away trips, and only got 60 minutes in the game at Chelsea. He was even taken off against Stoke and Watford, when Arsenal were struggling and needing goals.
Compared to other Premier League strikers, this usage of him is confusing. Romelu Lukaku has played 990 minutes of Premier League football for Manchester United. Harry Kane has played 871 minutes for Tottenham. Lacazette? 751.
It’s interesting that, no matter who they’re up against, neither Jose Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino will leave out their top scorer. Strikers of their quality are often the difference makers in such games.
Wenger may well see a tactical reason for having someone else up front, but he’s proving to be very inflexible by not working out a way of keeping Lacazette on the pitch as well. He’s long talked up the idea of having a forward who could play on the flanks or behind the main striker, but when he finally gets one, he doesn’t use him that way.
Somehow, he thought that Alex Iwobi was a better option on the flank than Lacazette would have been. Perhaps all will right itself as the season goes on, but you fear the effects on Lacazette’s confidence.
It can’t have been fun to sit on the bench while Francis Coquelin, who had a terrible game the previous Thursday against Red Star Belgrade, plays centre back. Nor would he have enjoyed watching Iwobi struggle to make an impact in the game.
If his recent reactions are anything to go by, he’s certainly not liking being taken off every game so Olivier Giroud can get his customary minutes. Wenger is giving him very mixed signals.
The hope will be that it doesn’t damage his form.