Comment and Analysis @p_smith86
Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette developing promising partnership for Arsenal
Last Updated: 02/10/17 12:00pm
Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette showed signs of developing an important partnership in Arsenal's win over Brighton, writes Peter Smith...
Play your top scorer from last season alongside your club record summer signing and you're left with an exciting, effective partnership, right?
It's not quite that simple - but Arsene Wenger's plan to build a bond between forwards Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette looks like it could develop into an important combination for Arsenal.
The pair started together for the first time on Monday night - in the 2-0 win over West Brom when Lacazette scored twice - and were paired together again as Arsenal eased passed Brighton by the same scoreline on Sunday.
While there were reminders against Brighton that devastating Premier League partnerships are not formed overnight, there were also neat interchanges between the pair - most notably in the slick build-up to Alex Iwobi's second-half strike - which offered encouragement.
On a drizzly early afternoon in north London, the Sanchez-Lacazette tandem took a while to warm up. While Lacazette lashed a shot against the post less than two minutes in and kept the ball alive ahead of Nacho Monreal's opener, and Sanchez fired a couple of early efforts at goalkeeper Mat Ryan, the pair passed to each other just two times in the opening 45 minutes.
Both produced good work with their team-mates around them, linking up with the tricky Iwobi and energetic runs forward of Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin. But they seemed strangely remote from each other as Arsenal, camped inside the Brighton half for much of the opening period, probed at the visitors' defence.
This unfamiliarity came to a head when Lacazette was handed a golden opportunity to add to Monreal's goal on 35 minutes. Lewis Dunk struggled to control a poor pass, Lacazette pounced. As he approached the edge of the box, he had Sanchez unmarked to his right, the goal opening up ahead of him and a desperate Brighton defender caught in no man's land in between.
The Frenchman - who had scored in his first three Premier League appearances at the Emirates and recorded 28 goals for Lyon last season - considered the Sanchez option and then went for goal himself. Caught in two minds, the shot lacked the venom needed to beat Ryan.
Whereas Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus appear to have struck up a selfless relationship at Manchester City, Lacazette and Sanchez are still developing that trust.
Top players, though, are quick to adapt and Wenger - who had written in his programme notes about the partnership, "I believe that will come quickly" - will have been pleased to see a significant improvement in Lacazette and Sanchez's link-up play after the break.
The Chilean, brimming with energy and intent, took it upon himself to drive Arsenal's attack in the second half - and began to look for his French team-mate in a way he hadn't in the first 45.
Just four minutes after the interval, Sanchez threaded the ball into the box for Lacazette. It would have been the first goal created and scored by the pair had it not been for a superb Shane Duffy block.
Lacazette is not only a goal scorer, his link play is good too.
On 56 minutes, they clicked again. Sanchez, approaching the edge of the box, pinged a low pass into Lacazette. Wenger has praised the striker's "combination" and "link" play and he smartly fizzed the ball inside to Aaron Ramsey who laid it back to the onrushing Sanchez. A creative back-heel later and Iwobi was in on goal and rifling the ball into the net.
Sanchez - the standout performer on the field in the second half - saw a shot of his own somehow sliced away for a corner by Dunk before the same defender denied Lacazette from scoring from another Sanchez through ball.
As Olivier Giroud stood on the touchline ready to be substituted into the action, Sanchez played one more wall pass with Lacazette before the latter was withdrawn.
It was a shame to see the duo's burgeoning double act cut short. After a stuttering start, they managed six exchanges in 25 second-half minutes and were regularly exposing a tiring Brighton backline.
There are many games ahead for Lacazette and Sanchez to forge their understanding, though, as Wenger knows. "Both of them can score goals, both of them can give assists, so I expect a positive response from them on that," said Wenger. "We work on the partnership in training but the best way is to play games together."
Arsenal fans can be excited by the prospect of this relationship developing.