Arsenal’s £52.7m record signing Alexandre Lacazette was dropped from the squad for the Gunners’ trip to Liverpool on 27th August, in which Arsenal were embarrassed 4-0, and was again dropped for the Gunners’ trip to the Etihad, in which the Gunners were outclassed and suffered a 3-1 defeat.
Questions must be asked as to why the Frenchman has been dropped to the bench in Arsenal’s most important games of the season so far bearing in mind he does well when he is played, and why he has only played the full 90 minutes once, in the opening league game of the season against Leicester City at the Emirates.
When Arsenal were set to come up against a Liverpool side at Anfield which possesses great pace going forward, it was hoped that Lacazette would play alongside the returning Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, and the Gunners would be able to show Liverpool some great attacking play of their own.
However, Lacazette was dropped, and Arsenal fans were unable to witness the much anticipated coming together of the trio against one of their main rivals.
Against Everton at Goodison Park, Arsene Wenger finally decided to start the trio together for the first time this season, and all three got on the scoresheet as the Gunners destroyed Everton, leading to Ronald Koeman’s sacking.
The trio started together again when coming up against Swansea, with Lacazette and Ozil linking up together which led to Arsenal’s equaliser and there was hopes that the understanding between the two would continue to develop with every game throughout the season. The Gunners went on to beat Swansea 2-1.
When Arsenal were set to come up against a Manchester City team at the Etihad which is lethal going forward, it was hoped that following the games against Everton and Swansea, Lacazette would continue to play alongside Sanchez and Ozil, and the Gunners would be able to match City when going forward.
However, the dreams of Gunners fans were not fulfilled as Lacazette was dropped once again. This was a notoriously similar situation to the Anfield nightmare, and one would have expected lessons to have been learnt to avoid such an undesirable case of Déjà vu.
Once the Frenchman was brought on in the second half at the Etihad, he put forward a very good case for why he should have been started. There was now a clear target up-front.
His agility and great understanding of the game makes up for his lack of power and the smaller frame as opposed to compatriot and fellow Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud. Lacazette has a great first touch, knows how to position his body accordingly and attracts the attention of defenders, which will create space for his team-mates around him as highlighted by this Man City match analysis.
These characteristics of the Frenchman allowed Arsenal to push City with greater ferocity and quickness, and so more chances were created and as a result, unsurprisingly, Lacazette was the man to score with a low driven shot through the keeper’s leg, a very good finish.
Even if Lacazette had started, the chances are high that Man City would have won anyway because there is a clear gulf in class which has now appeared between the two sides, but the decision to bench the 26-year-old sends the wrong message to the striker and the numerous fans who are seriously questioning Wenger’s ability to remain as manager and elevate the club.
On Match of the Day, Alan Shearer stated that the forward has ‘every right’ to knock on Wenger’s door to ask for answers regarding his playing time.
Shearer said: “He left him out at Anfield and again today, against your rivals. You spend £50m on a striker and think he will make the difference in the big games. He has scored six league goals, more than double anyone else in that Arsenal team. He played Sanchez today, who doesn’t want to commit himself to the football club, what does that say to Lacazette and his teammates?
He has got every right to go and knock on Wenger’s door tomorrow and say ‘Do you not fancy me or something’?”
It is becoming blatant that indeed, Sanchez does not want to be at the Emirates anymore, which makes the decision to play the Chilean up-front rather than Lacazette even more bemusing and confusing. There is no questioning the fact that regardless of the fact that Sanchez’s mind is elsewhere away from the club, his work ethic cannot be questioned when he plays, however it is the message sent to Lacazette which is the problem.
It seems that Wenger has not learnt from past mistakes, and decided to once again bench the consistent goalscorer in the squad, and continue to give needless chances to a player who does not want to be playing for Arsenal anymore.
It is worth noting that it is easy to criticise a manager’s decisions in hindsight, and if the Gunners had pulled off a result, Wenger would have possibly been receiving praise right now, however the decision to play Alex Iwobi rather than Lacazette totally seemed like the wrong decision from the start.
When Wenger signed the Frenchman, he described Lacazette as a ‘great addition’ who will ‘help us challenge at the top level next season’. Lacazette has dedicated his long-term future to the club, and it is time that Wenger perhaps sticks to his word and puts his trust in the forward.
Written by Sina Latif
Follow Sina on Twitter @_sina93
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