Alexandre Lacazette shouldn’t have to be the fall guy for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger’s problems.
Lacazette would have wanted nothing more than to be on the end of a game-saving chance for Arsenal.
Such opportunities had been taken away from him by Wenger, who saw fit to take him out of games after 70 minutes had elapsed. The Frenchman often looked despondent on the bench while his teammates struggled to rescue games.
Ironically, his new found status as a sub led to him finally getting a big moment. As he bore down on Hugo Lloris, the angle tightening, he only had to do the one thing Arsenal had paid £52m for him to do: put the ball into the back of the net.
The shot fizzed wide of the far post, and Arsenal’s chances of rescuing a point went with it.
The reaction has been as expected. Hysterical supporters took to social media to abuse Lacazette and his teammates for their efforts. Some even suggested that had it been Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Lacazette’s position, we’d be coming away with a point, not a defeat.
There’s a danger of the Frenchman becoming old news.
He spearheaded an under-performing Arsenal attack, and has now been replaced by a more expensive, more prolific centre forward after just half-a-season. The hope that we had signed a top centre forward in the summer has gone.
Just like that, Lacazette had become the new Olivier Giroud.
Giroud was often the fall guy when Arsenal weren’t winning games. Whether it was his poor finishing or lack of pace, fans found a way to blame him and lamented that a quicker, sharper striker wasn’t in his place.
The same now seems to be happening with Lacazette. Even the club seemed to think they could do better, hence the signing of Aubameyang.
Lacazette isn’t blameless but at the same time, it’s cheap to single him out for a missed chance. So much was riding on him scoring on Saturday because the whole team hadn’t performed.
Before they received a rude awakening from Spurs, Wenger had somehow managed to send his team out for the second half with less motivation and awareness than they managed in the first.
Big money is spent on strikers precisely for those game-saving, or game-winning, moments. They can be the difference during a game, and during a whole season.
But it’s also up to the team and the manager to give the striker those opportunities. For much of his Arsenal career so far, Lacazette has had to feed off scraps. He’s playing in a one chance, one shot environment where, if he doesn’t take that single opportunity, that’s it. He’s not getting anymore.
No striker can cope with that kind of pressure.
The situation wasn’t helped by Wenger continually withdrawing him from games. He justified it by citing Lacazette’s fitness and the need to give other players game time, but taking a striker off when he hasn’t scored, or when the team need a goal, communicates a lack of faith.
That very same striker was then needed to save the team as a impact sub and criticised because he couldn’t.
Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair.
He’s a convenient target for fans to vent their frustration, but let’s be reasonable.
Lacazette is only one problem of many at the club, and one entirely of the club’s own making.