Arsenal may have to wait to see the best of Alexandre Lacazette


When a player arrives with a huge price tag, there is inevitably an expectation that he will make an immediate impact. When Arsenal kick-off their Premier League campaign against Leicester City, much of the focus will be on record signing Alexandre Lacazette. However, Arsenal fans should be patient with their star summer signing—it may be a few weeks before we see the best of the Frenchman in a Gunners shirt.

In pre-season terms, Lacazette did at least hit the ground running. He scored within 16 minutes of coming on for his first Arsenal appearance in a friendly against Sydney FC, and followed that with another smart finish against Sevilla. Had his sweet strike against Chelsea been just an inch fourth towards the inside of the post, he might have had another Arsenal goal to his name.

Arsene Wenger has spoken positively about Lacazette’s promising start. After the Community Shield, the Gunners boss said:

“Lacazette is getting stronger every week, and I believe today it's the first time that you've seen that physically. He still needs to adapt to the intensity of the game, but overall in the first half he had very interesting movements, and I believe that from what we see today, he will become stronger and stronger.”

It’s an encouraging start, but there’s definitely a sense that he has much more to offer. Thus far, Lacazette looks like an efficient penalty box predator, but his time at Lyon suggests he has the potential to be a far more effective team player than that.


 

Due to his nationality, there have been inevitable comparisons drawn between Lacazette and Thierry Henry. That might be a bit of a stretch—Henry was playmaker as well as goalscorer, drifting out wide to the flanks and providing a regular supply line for the likes of Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg. Lacazette’s game can not quite match the plasticity of Henry’s, but he’s more than merely a marksman. His short backlight and quick feet have seen him earn comparisons with Jermain Defoe, but this is a more rounded footballer.

There were signs of that in the Community Shield. Lacazette was at the heart of the Arsenal’s best move of the game—a sweeping counter-attack up the field that ended in him bending a ball against the post. He also spun a couple of wonderful passes out to Hector Bellerin on the right flank. Lacazette is player who sees pictures early and has the technical ability to follow through on that vision.

Over time, his influence as a team player will grow. He’s never going to supplant Mesut Ozil as Arsenal’s key attacking playmaker, but once he and his team-mates have a better understanding of each other he’ll be able to become more involved in the side’s intricate approach play. 

Ozil having returned to training will help Lacazette. When Wenger signed him, he was thinking not just of Lacazette as an individual, but as a component part of a front three. With Ozil—and, it now seems certain, Alexis Sanchez—providing him with the ammunition, he will inevitably be much more dangerous.

Lacazette seems like an ideal foil for Ozil and Sanchez. He has the versatility to trade positions with them when required, but the directness and killer instinct to profit from their production line of perfectly-weighted through-balls. Watching Ozil and Sanchez last season, it sometimes felt as if they were operating as their own unit within this Arsenal team, trading quick passes and sharp sprints and tormenting the opposition. Adding Lacazette to the mix should make their threat more varied and more clinical.

It may well be the case that Lacazette opens his Premier League account in Arsenal’s first fixture of the season. However, that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that his adaptation is complete. Only once he has grown accustomed to playing with the rest of his team—particularly Ozil and Sanchez—will we begin to see true potential of their new signing realised.