The Guardian reported yesterday that Manchester United scouted Arsenal record signing Lacazette and “it is understood Mourinho was informed of doubts regarding Lacazette’s suitability for the Premier League, his physical attributes and big-game mentality.” And so, Man U chose, instead, to spend twice as much on Romelu Lukaku.
Comparisons between the two players were inevitable but the timing of this “report” is hilarious. It basically reads like Jose Mourinho turning to the reporter following United on their pre-season tour and saying “we could have bought Lacazette, but he is too small, and he doesn’t score in big games.” Then that being turned into a 200 word blurb published in the Guardian.
Every team scouts every big player and not every player fits every team’s philosophy or style of playing. Would Lukaku be better at Arsenal than at Man U? Would Lacazette score as many goals at Man U as he would at Arsenal? We will never know because my quantum timeline machine has not been invented in this timeline.
Still, whether Lukaku is a better “big game” player than Lacazette is also unknown. Lukaku has a good scoring record against teams like Man U (3 in 12), Arsenal (3 in 12), Liverpool (5 in 13), Man City (5 in 12), and Chelsea (2 in 7), for a total of 18 goals in 56 appearances – a goal every 3.1 games.
Comparing like for like between Ligue Un and the Premier League is impossible. The French football league is much less dominated by four clubs than the Premier League has been over the last 15 years. But if we use Transfermarkt’s team value ranking, the top five teams in France (Lacazette scoring record) are PSG (2 in 12), Monaco (5 in 6), Lyon, Marseille (4 in 11), Nice (7 in 9), and if we want the same number of clubs to compare I have to throw in Bordeaux (6 in 12). That’s 24 goals in 50 appearances – a goal every 2.1 games.
The criticism here is an old chestnut; the Premier League teams are more difficult, bigger, faster, and better and Lukaku is a “Premier League Proven Player”. This is true. But we have seen plenty of players come from non-Premier League sides and do very well in the Premier League. In fact, the Premier League is 66% foreign Johnnys. My guess is more than a few of them were not Premier League Proven Players (PLPP) before they proved themselves.
This wasn’t a rational critique of Arsenal’s summer transfer business. This was simply a poke at Arsene Wenger by the one man in England who constantly uses the press to jab at his perceived nemesis.
Welcome to the 2017/18 Premier League season, 10 months of Jose Mourinho being obsessed with Arsene Wenger.
As for the Lukaku/Lacazette comparisons, I’ll wait until at least one of them scores a goal for their new club before jumping to any conclusions.