Alexandre Lacazette’s form under mounting scrutiny as listless Arsenal hand top-four initiative to Tottenham

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Ten of the 12 outfield players used by Arsenal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Brighton attempted at least one shot but their striker was not one of them. Alexandre Lacazette is under mounting scrutiny.

The Frenchman has only scored once in his last 11 Premier League appearances and his tally for the season stands at just four goals in 25 games. He has not had a shot on target since mid-March. He has not found the net from open play since December.

Until recently, his lack of goal threat was mitigated by other qualities. Between December 6 and March 13, Lacazette registered two more assists (seven) than any other Premier League player.

His contribution, dropping deep to link the play and feed runners either side of him, was integral to the upturn in form which followed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s banishment from the side and propelled Arsenal back into the Champions League race.

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“Laca has a really important quality, which is that he makes the people around him better,” said Mikel Arteta in conversation with Sky Sports ahead of Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Watford last month.

His performance at Vicarage Road showed exactly what Arteta was talking about. Lacazette may not have scored himself but he played a crucial role in the victory nonetheless, teeing up Bukayo Saka for Arsenal’s second then setting up Gabriel Martinelli’s third.

“It’s so fun to play with him,” said Saka afterwards. Fellow academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe has been similarly complimentary. “Playing with him up top really helps me,” he said last season. “He gives me a lot of confidence and talks to me a lot.”

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Arsenal followed up their win at Watford with a 2-0 victory over Leicester which included a Lacazette goal from the penalty spot. Since then, however, they have lost three games out of four and the man tasked with leading the line has struggled more than anyone.

Lacazette’s lack of potency in front of goal was excusable when he was helping others thrive, but not anymore. Against Brighton, as well as failing to register a shot on goal, he had fewer touches (22) and made fewer passes (eight) than any other starter.

For many supporters, patience was already running out. Lacazette’s anonymous showing against Brighton followed similarly poor displays against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Liverpool.

He has gone from averaging 2.8 shots per 90 minutes to just 1.6 and he is creating barely half as many chances. His numbers for touches and passes have dropped by roughly a third. On top of that, he is offering even less of a presence in the opposition box.

Lacazette’s willingness to drop into midfield flummoxed opponents initially, but it looks increasingly like they have figured him out. Patrick Vieira even mentioned him by name after masterminding Crystal Palace’s 3-0 win over the Gunners at Selhurst Park.

“Any time they managed to find players [between the lines], we always had one of our back four who jumped out and try to put pressure, especially on Alexandre Lacazette,” he said.

Brighton employed similar tactics on Saturday and so too did Liverpool and Aston Villa before that. Lacazette is still dropping deep but he is no longer finding the same space to operate. Arsenal’s attacking fluency is suffering as a result.

Fatigue appears to be another factor.

Arteta has frequently talked up Lacazette’s “phenomenal” off-the-ball work-rate but his lethargic performances of late suggest the endeavours of the last few months are catching up with him.

So too does the tracking data. Before his recent dip in form, Lacazette had covered more than 10km in each of the last four games in which he had played the full 90 minutes. In each of the last two, however, against Brighton and Crystal Palace, he has fallen short of that milestone.

Lacazette's scoring struggles

  • Four goals in 25 league games in 2021/22
  • Only one goal in last 11 appearances
  • No shots on target in last four appearances
  • No goals from open play since December 11

It is perhaps unsurprising that a player who turns 31 next month is tiring, especially given the dramatic increase in his workload. Since Aubameyang was dropped, Lacazette has started 16 consecutive games. It is by far his longest run of starts since joining Arsenal.

Many supporters are eager to see something different as Arsenal attempt to get their top-four challenge back on track, but the situation is complicated by a lack of clear alternatives.

The club intend to sign at least one striker in the summer – “any successful team needs enough goal threat in the squad,” Arteta told Sky Sports in March – but until then their options beyond Lacazette are limited to Eddie Nketiah, who has not started a Premier League game all season, or the redeployment of a supporting forward such as Martinelli or Smith Rowe.

Image: Alexandre Lacazette's Arsenal contract is due to expire at the end of the season

Those who disagreed with the decision to let Aubameyang go will take his explosive start to life at Barcelona as vindication. Others will rue the decision not to replace him in the same transfer window.

Arteta, though, must do what he can with what he has.

Dropping Lacazette would be another gamble, given the relative inexperience of his alternatives, but the team already requires recalibration following the injuries to Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey. Why not reassess his attacking set-up at the same time?

Lacazette’s listless display against Brighton showed the need for change up front is becoming increasingly urgent. Recent evidence suggests Arteta cannot put it off for much longer.

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