In Focus: Stuttering Gunners must get Lacazette back firing
Alexandre Lacazette’s time in North London looks to be drawing to a close.
But if Arsenal are to revive their push for a top-four finish, they need one final flourish from their senior frontman before his likely Emirates departure.
The Gunners take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight, hoping that a first win in four can kick-start a late charge for Champions League qualification.
Ahead of that contest, we take a look at Lacazette’s faltering form and how he might yet help Mikel Arteta’s men enjoy a successful end to the season.
Reclaiming centre stage
Having been an unused substitute or restricted to a cameo in each of the first six games that he was available, it appeared 30-year-old Lacazette was set to be a bit-part player for Arsenal this term.
But the freezing out of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his subsequent departure opened the door for the Frenchman to take centre stage once again.
Prior to missing Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Southampton due to coronavirus, Lacazette had started 16 consecutive Premier League matches — wearing the captain’s armband for 14 of them.
The 16-cap France international’s time with the Gunners is almost certainly nearing its end, but he has not yet faded away.
A barren spell
Across the first 12 of those starts, Lacazette recorded 10 goal contributions, scoring three and setting up seven as Mikel Arteta's men put themselves firmly on course to finish fourth.
But the forward has not scored or assisted in any of his last four league outings, of which the Gunners have lost three and seen their hopes of Champions League qualification take a significant hit.
As a team, Arsenal have only found the net twice in their last five league matches, having failed to do so just once in their previous 14.
It goes without saying that they could do with Lacazette getting back among the goals and assists for the final run-in.
Masking the cracks?
While he has clearly been an important creative presence, it is worth noting that two of Lacazette’s last three goals have been penalties.
In fact, the 30-year-old has now gone 17 appearances in all competitions without scoring from open play.
So while Arsenal’s overall performance level has dipped in recent weeks, it is fair to question whether it was realistic to rely on Lacazette to spearhead their attack in the first place.
Clearly, Aubameyang’s departure did not come at an ideal time to bring in a new top-class striker.
But perhaps the Gunners’ impressive form between December and March merely served to mask their frontman’s lack of goal threat.
More shots needed
That said, Lacazette’s significant reduction in attempts on goal in his last four games does little to enhance his chances of getting back on the scoring trail.
Across the first 12 of his 16 straight starts, Lacazette averaged 2.75 shots per game. Over the last four, he only averaged 1.5.
However, that did coincide with a dramatic reduction in Arsenal’s attacking output on the whole — something that improved in the Lyon native’s absence against Southampton.
Though the Gunners lost that game, there were signs they could squeeze another couple of crucial goals out of their No9 in the team’s final seven fixtures.
Lacazette looks set to leave Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of the season — and he was not shy about revealing as much in a recent interview.
He said: "I am in discussions with a lot of clubs. I am open.
"I have never cut contact with Lyon since I left [to join Arsenal in 2017]. I try to return to the club once or twice a year to see the medical staff because we are really close.
"Lyon know I am free, they have come to the information."
While the forward went on to suggest that a return to Lyon may depend on whether or not they are playing in Europe next season, it could hardly be much clearer that he sees his future away from the Emirates Stadium.
As a result, the Gunners ought to ramp up their search for Lacazette’s successor right away.