On Sunday evening, the hopes of Arsenal signing Alexandre Lacazette this summer increased massively when Lyon president, Jean Michel Aulas admitted a deal could be done in the next couple of days.
“Alexandre Lacazette's transfer to Arsenal could be actioned within the next day or two,” said Aulas. “The figure reported by the English media of around €67m (including €12m in add-ons) is impossible and not realistic. Arsenal's first offer was around €45m, the transfer will be concluded in the range of €45m to €50m.”
The fee will eclipse what the Gunners paid for Mesut Özil in 2013, and would be a club record for what Arsenal have paid and what Lyon have ever received.
Lacazette had his hopes set on a move to Atletico Madrid at the start of the summer, looking to join a club playing in Europe’s elite competition, but after the Spanish side had their transfer ban upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he had to look elsewhere and soften his stance on UEFA Champions League football.
Consistent Goal-Scorer Arsenal Crave
There have been concerns from Arsenal fans around the deal, suggesting the striker was not of the top-class level they wanted, easily forgetting they finished outside the top four and will only play in the Europa League.
Not only did the Frenchman score 37 goals in 45 games in all competitions last term, but he has 100 Ligue 1 goals in 203 appearances, which includes his early years as a right-winger.
It wasn’t until the 2013/14 campaign where he was allowed to transition into a striker.
At first, he played in a 4-3-3, learning to be the spearhead with Yoann Gourcuff and Yassine Benzia playing off him. Then under Hubert Fournier, Lacazette enjoyed an amazing season, scoring 27 league goals and forming a stunning partnership with Nabil Fekir as the 4-4-2 diamond got the best out of his movement and pace.
OL struggled at the start of the 2015/16 season, but once Bruno Genesio took over and the striker adapted without Fekir and back to the 4-3-3, he again finished with over 20 goals.
Gunners fans were hoping that Arsène Wenger would stump up and pay over £110million on Kylian Mbappé after his first full season in France, but with Lacazette they are getting a forward who has scored consistently since 2013, maturing again in the season just gone, finishing with 28 goals in 30 games in what was an up and down term for OL.
One constant concern over his goal record is the 10 penalties that Lacazette has scored, yet, nothing is said to the fact he has scored half of his goals in the first-half, being crucial to his team’s success, or that he has five goals in the last 15 minutes of games, pushing until the very end.
No importance is shown to how many crucial goals a striker scores. What’s worth more, a game-changing penalty, or scoring the fourth or fifth in a 5-0 home win?
Over the past four seasons, when you look at his statistics for both European competitions and in the league, provided by WhoScored, Lacazette hasn’t managed fewer than 96 shots per season, only scoring less than 20 goals in his first campaign as a forward.
In terms of managing shots of target, his percentage has been over 53 per cent the last three seasons and with 27, 23 and 35 goals, his conversion rate has been 28.1, 19.8 and 31.2 per cent.
Eleven penalties last season is his highest return since joining the first-team, only scoring 10 total the past three years.
Alexis Sánchez Arsenal Future
Arsenal fans would ideally like the French striker to join forces with Alexis Sánchez, but the reality seems to suggest he’ll take the Chilean’s place at the Emirates.
The Manchester City transfer target has been the Gunners savoir over the past few seasons, and the main reason they have been contenders at all.
Measuring Sánchez to the same levels as Lacazette, he’s managed more shots, but his percentage on target has been between 34.4 and 40.2 per cent since joining from Barcelona. That’s lower than the Lyon star, as is his conversion rate, between 12.8 and 18.7 per cent – this season’s effort.
The Chile international has proven himself as a key goal-scorer in the Premier League and now it will be up to Lacazette to take his success in France and translate it to the next stage in his career.
Whatever has been thrown at the 26-year-old, be it a change in position, formation, fighting for his international place or the constant transfer talk, he’s met it head on and continued to improve.
Now, Lacazette will arrive in North London as almost a complete striker. Able to come short, he’ll play off the midfield support, and drift to connect with wingers. He pushes wide and has the pace to burst in behind and can also break free to ghost in at the back post.
While at Lyon, he has shown a great first touch, plus the strength and desire to muscle past the opposition.
Does Lacazette fit Arsenal’s system
Although Olivier Giroud scored 11 league goals in just 12 starts, when playing in the 3-4-3, Arsenal’s attack looked better with Danny Welbeck leading the line and Sánchez coming off the flank.
The larger Frenchman is effective and has a role to play, but he’s too stationary to make the front three work properly.
If Wenger agrees to sell their top scorer this summer, then it would leave another hole, whether they sign Lacazette or not. Movement is key when playing 3-4-3, you need someone to fill the gaps in the defence that the Lyon forward creates. Leave it all up to the new record signing and he could become isolated.
Arsenal would still need someone else to break the lines, run across the defence and do what Memphis Depay, Nabil Fekir and Mathieu Valbuena all provided at Parc OL last season.
In an ideal world, the Gunners would sign Lacazette and keep Sánchez, giving the club the attack line they have been craving for a few years.
Signing the 26-year-old is the perfect summer move for Wenger and Arsenal, but he, like their Chilean star, can’t do it all on his own. Keep Alexis and they have a chance, sell him and they will need to move again in the transfer market before the end of the summer.