Will Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette shine together for Arsenal?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have impressed in pre-season
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 03/08/18 2:18pm
Arsenal fans are excited by the prospect of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette spearheading their attack in the season ahead.
The pair have struck up a friendship off the pitch, but can they strike up an effective partnership on it?
We examine how they fared together last season and assess the ways in which Arsenal's new head coach Unai Emery is most likely to use them.
The story so far
Aubameyang and Lacazette had to wait for their first start together following the former's arrival from Borussia Dortmund on the final day of the January transfer window. Aubameyang initially got the nod up front, with Lacazette benched, and the Frenchman was sidelined by a knee injury before he could win back his place in the team.
It was not until Arsenal's Premier League trip to Newcastle in April that they were named in the same starting line-up, with Lacazette deployed through the middle and Aubameyang stationed on the left of a 4-3-3 formation. It only took 14 minutes for them to successfully combine, with Aubameyang crossing for Lacazette to volley home.
That game ended in a 2-1 defeat for Arsenal, but it was a glimpse of Aubameyang and Lacazette's potential to work together and there was more encouragement in Arsenal's wins over Burnley and Huddersfield. As against Newcastle, Aubameyang was positioned on the left on both occasions, but it did not stop him making an impact.
In the 5-0 win over Burnley, he scored the opener from a Lacazette assist and doubled his tally in the second half. In between his goals, he also teed up Alex Iwobi for the fourth. Lacazette was similarly effective, scoring Arsenal's second goal after providing the assist for Aubameyang's first.
Aubameyang then scored the final goal of Arsene Wenger's tenure as Arsenal rounded off the campaign with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield. In three competitive starts together, Aubameyang and Lacazette have therefore contributed a combined total of five goals and three assists between them.
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The early evidence suggests Aubameyang and Lacazette have already struck up a good understanding on the pitch and it is a similar story off it. The pair are regularly seen laughing and joking during training sessions and on social media. Last season, Aubameyang even gave Lacazette a late penalty against Stoke when he was on a hat-trick.
Team spirit is important to both players and they are eager to make their partnership work. "I never said Aubameyang's arrival was bad for me, only people in the press said it was bad," Lacazette told reporters after Arsenal's 5-1 friendly win over Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
"I was happy because I knew I could play with him. I didn't see him as a rival more than a team-mate, so since the beginning I was happy about his signature. Of course, it's good that we have a good relationship off the pitch. If people are good off the pitch, on the pitch it will be easier to play."
Aubameyang offered similar sentiments back in April, saying he hoped to get the opportunity to play alongside Lacazette in an interview with Sky Sports. "We have different styles, but I think they're styles that complement each other - he's a very good player and a very kind person," he said.
"We were once rivals in our days in France, but we're now friends and I hope we can play well together and score lots of goals."
Many supporters questioned Wenger's decision to use Aubameyang on the left rather than as a centre-forward at times last season, but it has been the same story under Emery in some of Arsenal's pre-season games. The Gabon international started on the left against both Atletico Madrid and Boreham Wood, allowing Lacazette to start up front.
Emery gave Aubameyang opportunities to lead the line in Arsenal's meetings with Paris Saint-Germain, when he provided the assist for Mesut Ozil's opener, and Chelsea, but on those occasions there has been no room in the team for Lacazette.
Despite playing fewer minutes than Aubameyang, however, Lacazette has been the more prolific of the pair in Arsenal's warm-up games. Aubameyang scored a hat-trick against Boreham Wood, but he has not found the net since, with Lacazette scoring twice from the bench against PSG and once more against Chelsea - in addition to his goal against Boreham Wood.
Emery may decide to pick up where Wenger left off and use Aubameyang on the left with Lacazette through the middle, but it is unlikely that he will use them as an old-fashioned centre-forward pairing. The Spaniard generally prefers to use one central striker in either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation.
Lacazette is not comfortable on the left, so unless Emery persists with Aubameyang there, he might find it tricky to fit both players into his starting line-up. It's up to him to find the right configuration, but it's an exciting prospect for Arsenal regardless.
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