The Arsenal striker has a tendency to slow down his team's attacks and that will be a worry for the Spaniard
Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Rapid Vienna in the Europa League was mired by defensive mishaps and turgid attacking, particularly in the first 45 minutes.
The Gunners struggled to break down a rigid and reserved Rapid defence, while also failing to contain Greek striker Taxiarchis Fountas at the other end.
Fortunately, only one of Bernd Leno’s trio of errors was punished by the Austrian side on what could have been a very different evening. Late on in the game, Arsenal could have put the match to bed, sealing a third goal of their own after Alexandre Lacazette broke beyond a defensive line.
The French striker hesitated inexplicably, allowing three Rapid defenders to get behind the ball and temporarily dispossess him, before Nicolas Pepe’s subsequent shot sailed high and wide.
It was not the only instance on the night where Lacazette seemed to slow down the play, and prior to the introduction of Hector Bellerin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal did not look like scoring at all.
The Gunners’ second goal displayed everything the team can be when at full strength and playing with a real verve and pomp. A flowing move, culminating in a pass across the face of the six-yard box for Aubameyang to tap in was a fitting end to a smart move. It did not involve Lacazette.
Worryingly for the Frenchman, Aubameyang completed just two fewer passes than Lacazette, despite playing almost an hour less. Lacazette’s involvement was minimal, and according to Opta, he registered one touch fewer in the opposition penalty area than Aubameyang despite the latter’s introduction as a second-half substitute.
In a team full of youth and vibrancy, Lacazette risks being categorised among the old guard of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi – two of whom are unlikely to feature for Arsenal again.
With the likes of Bukayo Saka and Pepe in wide areas, Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos in the middle breaking lines with dribbles and passes, this Arsenal team needs an attacker tuned into the same frequency as these alert, forward-thinking individuals.
Aubameyang and Bellerin’s introduction showed how easily Arsenal could get down the sides of Rapid, something Lacazette had struggled to do through linking up with Pepe on the right and Eddie Nketiah on the left.
Admittedly it did not help that, for much of the game, Lacazette cut an isolated figure and found himself dropping deeper to receive the ball, suffocated by Rapid’s low block.
However, it is worrying that he could not recognise the joy Arsenal were having down their left flank, with Saka and Nketiah combining, preferring to remain central and thus divorcing himself further.
Fortunately for Arteta, he has options when it comes to his attacking setup. Aubameyang can play centrally, as can Nketiah if the Spaniard deems Lacazette too languid and unhurried.
That opens up the possibility of Saka playing further forward in the left-hand half-space, reprising his role as the team’s most potent creator, as he was across all competitions last season.
There is an autumnal feel to Alex Lacazette’s Arsenal career based on his last 12 months or so. The relationship with Aubameyang is one of the few redeeming aspects of his game, but as Arteta looks to transition this team further away from the type of performance on display in Vienna last night, Lacazette could prove to be another casualty.