When Arsenal signed Alexandre Lacazette over the summer, there seemed to be quite a few people with doubts about what he’d bring to the team.
Most people who looked at Alexandre’s goalscoring record at Lyon would’ve been impressed by his stats. 37 goals in 45 matches in 2016/17 is up there with the best records in Europe.
However, people started to ask questions about the signing.
Would the 26-year-old step up in the big games?
If he can’t get into the France team ahead of Giroud, why would he be better for Arsenal?
Is a 5’9″ striker going to be able to hold his own in the Premier League?
So far, Alexandre has answered all of those questions on the pitch.
A goal against Manchester City and an assist against Tottenham Hotspur show he’s as up for the big games as any other Arsenal player. A start for France against Germany this month and two goals in that match show he has the ability to do it for the national side, and six goals in the Premier League at this early stage prove his physicality isn’t going to be a big problem.
More than that, Lacazette has impressed in ways most fans perhaps didn’t expect.
Compared with other big-six strikers like Lukaku, Kane, Morata and Firmino, Alexandre has better pass accuracy (74%, via Squawka) than any of them, and only Firmino attempts more passes per game.
So the French international is clearly as heavily involved in the build up as you’d hope. The Manchester City strikers are the only ones doing better, but then that’s exactly what Guardiola’s game is built around.
But neither the City strikers, nor anyone else, can match Lacazette’s tackles-per-90 (other than Firmino again). He’s currently attempting 2.86 per game, so that’s almost three occasions every match that he puts a defender under pressure and tries to win the ball. Against Spurs, Alexandre chased down the defence and any loose balls, even creating a chance for himself early on by doing so.
He’s also ahead of all the other big-six strikers in take-ons, completing 79%. Players like Kane and Morata don’t even reach 50%, by comparison. It’s something which isn’t always reflected in the goals or assists, but helps your team move the game forward.
The striker’s most important involvement last weekend came from another run in behind and a cut-back to Alexis Sanchez, who scored to put the Gunners 2-0 up. It summed up Lacazette’s season so far, for me.
He’s been consistently willing to make runs in behind, providing movement for the midfielders to work with, but his play when not scoring has often gone under the radar.
Alexis got the goal and the plaudits for his tight angle finish, but in one of the biggest games of the season so far it was the Frenchman preventing the Spurs defenders from getting a moment’s rest.
That’s what I think deserves more praise and focus.
Lacazette may have six goals and a higher shot accuracy (67%) than all but one of the above strikers (Gabriel Jesus, 71%), but he’s proving in every game that he can offer much more besides.