Friday 17 November 2017 13:30, UK
Why it is 'madness' for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger not to pick £52m striker Alexandre Lacazette...
"No, not at all," said Arsene Wenger when asked whether he had any reluctance to play Alexandre Lacazette in the biggest games. "I have a big choice to make every time, big decisions to make up front. But he played many games, Alexandre Lacazette. He didn't play away from home at City, I think that is the only game he didn't start. I trust him completely."
Wenger's suggestion that Lacazette's omission for the game against Manchester City was a mere anomaly is not entirely accurate. The £52m summer signing from Lyon was also among the substitutes for the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool in August. Lacazette did make it onto the Anfield turf eventually, but by that stage Arsenal were already three goals behind.
That decision was explained away by Wenger with the claim that "Lacazette is still in the adaptation phase" but the striker had scored two minutes into his Premier League debut over a fortnight earlier. He had even expressed particular excitement about the prospect of playing at Anfield in a Sky Sports interview. "I cannot wait," Lacazette told Thierry Henry.
That he came on to score Arsenal's only goal in the defeat at City last time out should be enough to ensure a recall. A further strike for France during the international break certainly suggests he is in form. Lacazette goes into the north London derby having scored one goal in 150 minutes of action against top-six rivals. But he has already missed two hours of them.
The fear is that Wenger does not see him as the best option in those big games. Tottenham are unbeaten against Arsenal in each of the past three Premier League seasons and the intensity of Mauricio Pochettino's team will pose a tough test for the Gunners. But the defensive work rate that was once such an issue for Lacazette should not be a factor.
"Many have not got over the old Lacazette and the perception that I was a bit of a lazy striker who did not really work hard for the team," the player himself admitted to Sky Sports in that aforementioned interview earlier this season. "At least I thought I was working hard, but I did not really know how to help my team-mates."
Lacazette added: "As a No 9, I have to be there to score goals, but that isn't the only thing. I also participate in the build-up and help my team-mates." Henry agreed. "His overall play is on point," the Arsenal legend has since claimed. "I like his overall play. Very neat, very clean, he does whatever the game is asking him to do."
Wenger too appears to understand exactly what Lacazette can bring to this Arsenal team. "He made a big effort to explain why he wanted me and what he wanted from a striker which fitted with what I was looking for," said Lacazette of his compatriot. "He managed to convince me that I would be able to make progress here."
There could hardly be a better time to make that next big step than against Arsenal's arch-rivals at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. With six Premier League goals already, Lacazette has made an encouraging start. Now he needs to make a real mark on a big game. And to do that he needs his coach to give him the opportunity too.
He's our best finisher. It's madness not having him in the team.
"Alexandre Lacazette simply has to start against Tottenham. He's our best finisher. It's madness not having him in the team. I was very surprised when he wasn't playing against Manchester City.
"After what Arsene Wenger did at Chelsea I thought he could leave Mesut Ozil out at the Etihad, but to drop Lacazette for Francis Coquelin just broke me.
"Lacazette may not have electric pace but his movement is very good. They hardly every create chances for him though. The same happened for Olivier Giroud but Giroud didn't find the space that Lacazette does.
"I would actually go two up front with Danny Welbeck and Lacazette. If Arsenal are serious about winning these big games I would go with those two and really try to move Tottenham's back three around rather than just letting them keep their shape."