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Opinion

Celebrating Laca's 50 goals

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Roar Rookie
22nd September, 2020
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Much of the discussion over the last weeks and months has been centred around Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

However, you would be excused for forgetting the Gunners have another top-class international striker in Alexandre Lacazette. The 29-year-old striker scored his 50th competitive goal for the North London club against West Ham, which now puts him ahead of Arsenal legends such as Charlie George and Sylvian Wiltord.

After watching all 50 of these strikes, it is interesting how the type of goal that he has scored has varied depending on which manager he has been working under.

Notably, his favourite opponents are the two teams Arsenal kicked off this season against, with the strikes against Fulham and West Ham being his fourth against each opponent.

Newcastle, Southampton and Tottenham are his next-favourite to put to the sword, scoring three times against each of these, along with Valencia, whom he scored against in both legs of the 2019 Europa League semi-finals.

Most scored against: 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Total
West Ham 2 1 1 4
Fulham 3 1 4
Newcastle 1 1 1 3
Valencia 3 3
Southampton 1 2 3
Tottenham 1 2 3

Lacazette is often an under-appreciated member of Arsenal’s attack, with the focus of the last two pre-seasons being either on Aubameyang’s contract situation or the £70m signing of Pepe.

However, it is easy to forget Lacazette’s goals have been a steady flow over three seasons and that he was voted Arsenal’s player of the season in 2018-19.

How he scores

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Type of goal 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 Total
Right-footed shot 8 14 9 31
Penalty 3 3
Direct free kick 2 2
Header 3 1 2 1 7
Left-footed shot 3 2 1 1 7
Total 17 19 12 2 50

Obviously, as a right-footed player, it makes sense that he has scored almost two-thirds of his goals with that foot. Nevertheless, he has shown this season and at least once in each of the previous campaigns, that he can use the left peg when needed. This was most notably displayed during the 4-2 victory over Spurs in the North London derby when, surrounded by three Spurs defenders and nobody to pass to, he managed to squeeze a left-footed drive past Hugo Lloris.

Different goals under different managers

The season he won player of the year was his most prolific and, apart from possibly Matteo Guendouzi, there is no Arsenal player who thrived more under Unai Emery, as 23 of his 50 goals came during Emery’s reign, with 19 of them being scored in the only full season Emery had in charge.

What stands out when watching the fifty strikes is not just the quantity of goals, but the quality.

His 17 goals under Arsene Wenger in his inaugural season were often less spectacular, possibly a sign that he was finding his feet and had slightly less confidence to try the unexpected.

Aside from being on penalties (which he’s never missed) in Wenger’s final season, from which he scored three goals, his other fourteen goals in his first season were generally simple finishes: eight with his right foot, three with his left foot and three with his head.

The vast majority of these finishes were usually ending a well-worked move on the edge of the box, with a clinical, but unspectacular, finish, or a tap-in from a crossed ball. This is not to take away the technical ability of his shooting, which is always excellent; it’s just they won’t win him any goal of the month competitions.

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Then, when Emery arrived, something seemed to relax him as he appeared to try to improvise a little more, and it was during this coach’s purple patch between September and November 2018, when Arsenal remained undefeated, which coincided with Lacazette scoring three of his finest goals for the club.

Three of the best

Number three is the game’s opening goal against Everton in September 2018. He received the ball in the left forward position and took a touch into the penalty area, out of reach of any defenders, and curled a powerful shot around Jordan Pickford.

Number two was against Cardiff, three weeks before the Everton strike. Twenty minutes after setting up his strike partner Aubameyang, he scored a quite sensational winner in the 82nd minute. Lucas Torreira threaded a pass through the Cardiff defence and Lacazette took a touch to take it away from the Cardiff players who were rushing back. While this narrowed the angle available to him to shoot at goal, he got time and space, as the defenders were unable to change direction, to slam home a shot into the roof of the net, inside the keeper’s near post, giving him no chance.

Number one is the 82nd-minute equaliser against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium. Mohamed Elneny threaded a through-ball for Laca to run on to, but Alisson was quick off his line and completely blocked the goal in a crouched position. Lacazette decided to improvise, and touched the ball away from Alison in the direction of the corner flag, took another quick touch to change the ball’s direction towards the centre circle, effectively doing a 360 turn and giving himself leverage while on the spin. He then fired a shot past the now well-positioned Liverpool defence into the corner from what seemed a lost cause. This gained a valuable point against the future European Champions.

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Another interesting anomaly was that later on in the 2018-19 season, between February and April, when his confidence was peaking, he scored the two direct free-kicks against Napoli and Bournemouth, a feat that he has not since repeated due to the quality of the free-kick takers at the club.

Similarly to his penalty record, these strikes highlight that this is an under-used element of his game that Mikel Arteta can capitalise on. His sole headed goal under Emery was in the Europa League in Spain, indicating that the ball was in the air much less during the Spaniard’s reign. Overall, aside from the above, he scored three left-footed goals, with the remaining 17 of the 23 scored under Emery were with his right foot.

His dry spell

Coinciding with the uncertainty at the club, when Emery was under pressure, Freddie Ljungberg was temporarily drafted in and a young Arteta was finding his feet in his first senior role, Lacazette’s form seriously dipped. This is understandable given the way Arsenal played and the lack of creativity that occurred, with creative talent such as Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka falling out with both the management and the fans.

While he scored two headed goals in early December against Brighton and Standard Liege, he did not score again until late February, when he rounded off a 4-0 victory over Newcastle to give him his first strike under Arteta.

Since then, he has gone back to his Wenger form scoring more frequently in the post-COVID season, often with clinical right-footed strikes, such as the gift presented to him by Virgil Van Dyk at the end of last season. None of the goals under Arteta will live long in the memory, but they all count and have added to the growing energy around the club.

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Ultimately, despite his Emery-era goals having the most aesthetic value, all of Lacazette’s goals have been valuable to the club, and the statistics show that when the Frenchman scores, Arsenal win 80 of the time.

His goal against Fulham last weekend, his 49th for the club, was possibly the least pleasing on the eye, but it set Arsenal on track for an important opening day win. Then, his 50th was hopefully a glimpse of what this season promises, as the dynamic duo combined to give Arsenal an early lead. Always able to use his head when needed, as he did with his debut goal against Leicester back in 2017 and as he has done in the Europa League against Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Liege in each of the last three seasons. Headed goals add another dimension to his range of goals.

A three-year view

While following the pattern of the type of goals that he has scored, it appears that we have seen the Frenchman go full circle. Firstly, with Wenger-ball goals, he was required to apply a simple finish to the numerous chances the technical players around him would create. Then, when working under Emery, the frequency and quality of the chances dried up, this did not faze him as he was able to use a bit of his own magic to not only score but also fashion the chance in the first place.

The negativity around the club around last Christmas highlighted that he is not at his best during uncertain times and that too many bad vibes are not good for his goalscoring productivity.

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However, now under Arteta, while he is now required to work a lot harder for the team than he did under Wenger, the type of chances that get created for him on the counter-attack are similar to this era in both frequency and quality. He is therefore now required to use his technical expertise to simply put the ball in the back of the net in a clinical fashion, with any part of his body possible.

As he now sits on 50 Arsenal goals, this places him just outside the top 50 scorers in the club’s history, and now with each goal he scores, he will ascend up the list and gradually displace historic names such as Alan Ball, ‘Champagne’ Charlie Nicholas, Kevin Campbell, Cesc Fabregas, Aaron Ramsey and Emmanuel Adebayor.

With Willian, Aubameyang and Pepe now providing for him, here is to another fifty goals for the Frenchman over the next three seasons, as under Arteta’s guidance he will look to fire Arsenal into the top four, retain the FA Cup and maybe even finally win the Europa League.