Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette is a big fan of statistics. He is not the most knowledgeable player of data, but in his constant search for improvement and how to become a better player, he takes more interest.
A few days ago, a friend showed him a graph on the most involved scorers in the Premier League – simply, the centre-forwards who take a significant part in the game of their team build up (or not) and who also have chances of mark (or not). Alongside Raul Jimenez of wolves, the Frenchman is the No. 9 in the Premier League with the highest mix of involvement in his team’s play and chances, ahead of even Roberto Firmino, for example.
Lacazette is a key element in how Arsenal build their attacks. He used a lot with his back to goal to hold the ball or in transition to help create space, either with the ball or without the ball, for his teammates. Against Sheffield United on Saturday, it was Lacazette’s fine pass for Nicolas Pepe that led to a centre and a chance for Gabriel Martinelli. It was again slotting him the first time ball for Bukayo Saka on the left side to cross for Martinelli to score the opening.
Since the first day since he was unveiled as Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta has been very clear: many of the Gunners’ playing models in the future would be built around the movement and touch of Lacazette. In a sense, scoring goals is easy if you get a good delivery, but being able to score, help others and also link the game is much more difficult. Players who can do anything are extremely rare.
Despite Arsenal’s position in the middle of the table, Lacazette is one of the most complete strikers in England at the moment, so it is surprising that some fans criticise him for a lack of goals. He’s gone seven games since he found the back of the net, an unwanted run – and the one he wants wasn’t yet in progress – but he has a much bigger role to play for this arsenal side in transition than just finishing the moves att aque. Without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, suspended for two more games following his red card against Crystal Palace, Lacazette has even more responsibility. He wore the captain’s bracelet against Sheffield United and could wear it again on Tuesday at Chelsea.
Speaking of Chelsea, Arsenal’s last meeting with the Blues the day after boxing, which Arsenal lost 2-1 in the last 10 minutes, is a perfect game to highlight all of Lacazette’s work. Former Lyon striker Lacazette played 90 minutes, had no shots, no assists and no assists leading to a shot. Yet he played a key role in any good Arsenal did for an hour, before plunging into intensity like the rest of his team on the stretch.
Since Arteta’s arrival, Lacazette’s expected goal count is less than he was under Unai Emery, because he is much more involved in the accumulation game and not just there to convert the chances made for him. His movements take him away from the goal so that he can play a more active role.
In the Premier League this season, Lacazette has five goals and two assists after 16 games. His expected goals are 4.21 and 1.98, which means he’s basically scoring the chances he should score, but if you look, not many chances are actually coming Laca way. In comparison, Aubameyang has 14 league goals, surpassing his xG by nearly 4 (10.25). Without his best friend Aubameyang on Saturday, he seemed a little more isolated too, which could be the case once again at Chelsea on Tuesday. Nevertheless, Mikel Arteta is very happy with his striker, who, let’s not forget, what named Arsenal player of the season last year after scoring 13 goals and giving eight assists in the league.
“I am very happy with his performance and the way he contributes to the team. He sets goals for the rest, creating situations for his teammates. His work in possession is phenomenal. He’s a very important player for me. We just have to put him in the best position to score again. Marking is the best remedy for a striker,” Arteta said before the Sheffield United game.
Contrary to the criticisms and questions surrounding Arsenal during this public and difficult reconstruction, Lacazette does not need medicine for his rating drought. He is booming in his new role under Arteta, but the Gunners could use his goals in the coming weeks.