Arsenal are just a 6th place team now

Football is fake. That’s what Rafa Benitez said on the Times podcast the other day. It’s a fake because nearly everything that the managers say, that the players say, and what’s reported in the papers is some sort of lie.

Rafa retells a story about his mother yelling at him while he was manager of Liverpool. She wanted to know why he didn’t visit her. He said, but I’m still in Liverpool. And she said, but the papers all printed that you were here in Madrid, meeting with people!

But beyond the stuff that we all know is fake news, the transfer tattle and whatnot, is the stuff that doesn’t get reported. Managers, players, and owners rarely tell the whole truth to the papers. The papers can’t print the whole truths that they know. And of course, the players give anodyne interviews filled with scripted responses like “we really need to look at ourselves  and give a big response” after a tough loss.

Lacazette lacks confidence. That’s the story going around right now. He has scored just 2 goals since December 2nd. That’s 14 appearances and 2 goals. That’s a pretty tough record for a striker. There is a problem and I don’t know if it’s confidence or not. But in those 14 games he has 9 matches where he took 2 or fewer shots and 4 games where he got zero shots. And in the buildup to the Tottenham match, where he missed one good chance, he had played in two matches where he got zero shots. 180 minutes of football against Swansea and Chelsea with zero shots.

At Lyon last season, Lacazette had 6 matches, all competitions including internationals, where he got zero shots. This season he already has 10 matches with zero shots.  Getting him shots is a priority. In fact, getting the two forwards shots should be a team priority.

Lacazette – shots and goals from open play (no pens, no set pieces, no counters)

Season Club Minutes Shots in open play Goals from open play Finishing Minutes per goal from open play
2017/2018 Arsenal 1822 51 7 14% 260
2016/2017 Lyon 2408 53 16 30% 151
2015/2016 Lyon 2962 79 15 19% 197
2014/2015 Lyon 2849 58 11 19% 259
2013/2014 Lyon 2910 74 12 16% 243

But the team is kinda broken right now or at the very least you can say that the team is rebuilding. Ramsey is Arsenal’s leading shot taker with 2.4 shots per game. Harry Kane takes nearly 6 shots a game at Tottenham. Aguero 4 shots per game, Salah 4 shots per game, Morata 3 shots per game, etc. Of the top 10 goal scorers this season (Lacazette is 10th) only Vardy and Rooney have taken fewer shots than Lacazette.

Is that Lacazette’s fault? Well, maybe. He’s never been a player who takes a lot of shots. His shots per90 is 2.8 this season and was 3.1 last season where he scored the most goals of his career. Last season was also an exceptional finishing season for him: he scored more than twice as many goals on the same number of shots. He was also playing in France, this is England. This is an English Premier League where every team has the money to buy exceptional players, where every teams sets up to be defensive against Arsenal, where every team is much more physical, much faster, and much stronger than in France.

It’s not just a new league for Lacazette. It’s also a team in turmoil. The manager basically mailed in last season and is what I would consider a dead man walking this season. Players publicly wanted out of the team for two years (Sanchez has been stropping for years, that’s what all the “thinking man” poses and yelling at his teammates was all about). The midfield for Arsenal is a mess – they struggle to maintain possession, can’t handle pressure, and in some games can’t get the ball forward. And Arsenal literally just bought a second striker, who is probably slightly better than Lacazette, in the same season where they bought Lacazette.

As for the Lacazette miss against Tottenham, I felt bad for him. But I also know that if he had scored that chance, it would have been highway robbery, gas station hold-up, knocking over a liquor store, because Arsenal were comprehensively beaten by Tottenham. Arsenal took just three shots in the first 89 minutes. All three shots were from outside the 18 yard box. One, Wilshere’s, was generously awarded as a shot. Meanwhile, that lot took 18 shots, got six big chances, took 9 shots in the prime. That’s a paddlin’ unlike anything we’ve seen at Arsenal since we last played Bayern Munich.

This is just how the end-of-Wenger’s-career Arsenal are. It’s just a weird team, doing weird things, playing weird football. Sometimes we can play great, like against Everton – when the opponent lets us play – and sometimes we crumble, like against Tottenham. Arsenal are also good against Man City for some reason and probably should have whupped Man U this year.  Yet, because of the lack of consistency, Arsenal are stuck in 6th place and have no real hope of getting any higher (538 gives Arsenal a 10% chance to finish top 4, a drop from 17% before the loss to Spurs) nor any way of dropping lower.

Arsenal are just not as good as Tottenham, Liverpool, or Man City. It should be the target of this club to be better than those teams, like we have been for the vast majority of the last 20 years. It’s not the end of the world to finish one or two seasons out of the top 4. We just have to get back up to that level again.

And that’s not “fake news”.

Qq

Sources: Whoscored.com for the shots data, ESPN.com for Lacazette’s match history, FiveThirtyEight for the top 4 finishing percentages.

86 comments

  1. I feel like the manager and the club are caught between ideas of what they want to do with the players and the team.

    When you say that we’re in a “re-build” what does that mean? Because right now it feels like a renovation, not a re-build. A house renovation means that maybe you knock a wall out here, do a kitchen upgrade, add in some new bathroom fixtures, but the structure of the house stays essentially unchanged.

    To rebuild something implies that you are working from the foundation up. And you would never start such a program without a plan, without blueprints.

    I see a lot of very good players for a counter-attacking team – Ozil and Xhaka have great passing range, Auba terrifying pace, Ramsey and Wilshere great players at making runs into the box. But traditionally that means low-block organized defending and conceding possession to the other team. Instead we were playing a high line, which combined with theirs compressed midfield and worked to their advantage because they were much better and organized at pressing in the middle.

    It just seems so confused. What’s this rebuild? What’s the vision for the team? Tiki-taka or Atletico counter-attacking? Gergenpressing a la Klopp or Ponderous bus parking a la Mourinho? Or can you do a Chelsea and find a manager strong enough to make any group of players play the way he wants?

    Sadly it’s come time to lance the boil because we’ll never know where we’re headed until Wenger is gone. His improvisational rebuild is leaving us with some weird M.C. Escher house with staircases that never get us where we want to go.

    1. Too right Jack, the vision for how this squad is being constructed has been lacking for several years. We are trying to find good talent for a good price without worrying too much about how it all fits together and the result is a squad full of good players but without a purpose, or unified vision. It’s unbalanced between attacking and defending and between technique and physique. There are some good raw parts but the team needs an identity it can believe in.

          1. I await then his next “I always see out my contracts” quote. I seriously doubt this club will ever fire him.

            Did anyone else notice that Ancelotti was at the game Saturday?

    2. Rebuilding takes time. We moved on two decent but not good enough players in the forward line, Walcott and Giroud. We upgraded in quality, and while we would have preferred to keep Sanchez, we made the best of bad hand getting Miki, a very shrewd acquisition.

      We have to perform surgery to the entire spine.

      The midfield we’ve talked to death, and I think we mostly agree what needs to happen there. Two of Xhaka, Elneny, Jack and Ramsey need to be moved on, and a proper Dembele-type sitter acquired. AMN is at the stage where he has to be given meaningful games. Iwobi has to decide whether he wants to be a serious player or a celebrity footballer.

      Im more worried about central defence. Kos is in decline (he should never have allowed Kan to beat him so easily in the air, or Pogba so easily on the ground recently against United). I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that Mustafi isn’t good enough, and isn’t going to be. He can look terriffic one day, and panicky and error-riddled the next. That we made a serious inquiry about Jonny Evans tells us about Wenger’s confidence in Chambers and Holding (who has fallen away badly). That’s a big, big job there.

      Finally, there’s Cech. He’s done. And Ospina will never be our Number One. Martinez isn’t good enough, and Macy isn’t ready. We’re going to have to buy big. The decision to move on a still-young Szczesny, who adored the club, isn’t looking so clever now.

    3. Yep. Jack nails it.

      At times in his long reign, AW’s “improvisational” style has been an asset. But too often in recent years it’s been a disaster, particularly with player recruitment, but also in how he fails to take his large squad full of talented footballers and turns them into a balanced first 11 playing a coherent strategy they understand and believe in.

  2. I know this season has been bad, but weirdly, it hasn’t really bothered me that much. I think that as soon as the manager signed a new contract last summer, my mind just kind of wrote this season off. It almost feels like that around the whole club – like this season is just a holding pattern, and we all know that nothing really interesting will happen until a new manager comes in.

    I guess what I’m saying is, we lost to Spurs away (and Liverpool, City, and almost everyone else), but it doesn’t really hurt because I never really expect us to win those games anymore.

    1. I’m in a very similar place right now with the club. One plus is that Arsenal no longer ruin my weekends!

  3. I know that the winter olympics may be influencing peoples thinking, but football awards points for wins and losses, not artistic impression. And you get wins and losses from goals scored and conceded.

    I just don’t understand the argument that snatching a 1- 1 draw at Spurs would have been an injustice. No, it would not have been. That’s how the game works.

    We criticise Arsenal when teams they’ve outplayed come back to draw or win. We also say we got our just desserts when we fail to do the same. Where is the consistency? Their failure to take their chances is on them, just like our failure to beat teams we outplay is on us.

    A team can’t have one striker carrying the load, and Laca has to understand that. His challenge now is to displace Aubameyang. And, with all the different competitions , he’ll get games. One injury can change everything, and he’s got to be ready to come in and perform to a high level.

    About only being a Top 6 Team now, I agree.

    1. Auba is cup tied for Europa so that’ll be Alex’s theater… He has to produce there, and I think he will given the competition will suit him better.

    2. Claude,
      The point is not that we wouldn’t have deserved it because we weren’t playing attractive enough football (though that’s a different discussion one can have)–and therefore that we fans couldn’t have been legitimately happy at snatching a draw, or something. Rather the point is that their dominating the game (according to pretty much any objective metric you want to use, but big chances will do) means that focusing on Lacazette’s misses right at the end is overlooking the more fundamental problems that led to our being in the position we were in with 89 minutes on, and indeed “deserving” to be down a lot more, if only they had finished the numerous eminently finish-able chances they had.

      1. In other words, their failing to take their chances is on them, but those chances are still relevant when we assess our own rotten performance, and the aspects of that performance that led to all those chances should overshadow focus on Laca’s misses.

      2. I don’t see anyone focusing on Lacazette’s misses. For my part I’m simply saying that — if he had scored with either presentable chance and secured a draw — it is a strange to argue, as you did last thread, that it would have been undeserved. Which is now moot in any case. Football isn’t about points. It’s about goals. They scored one, albeit of a glut of chances. That’s their problem. We had two very good chances to get one. Albeit off a handful of chances. That’s our problem.

        It doesn’t take away from the fact that they outplayed us, but football games aren’t always decided on the basis of who outplayed whom. If they had been, we’d have won a couple of titles in the past 10 years. The final result is what matters more. We need your substitute/bench players to come in and change games. Even ones in which we are manifestly inferior. Laca could have.

        It is a strange argument to make, imo. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve outplayed a team and drawn. And you’d be the first on here to slate us for now putting the game out of sight.

        We can’t have it both ways.

        Laca has to be ready, at least in the short term, to affect games as a sub. That’s what a bench is for.

        1. Matter of fact, a draw from that game would have been the perfect slap in the face of the hun. As Keegan famously said, “I’d luuuuve it”.

          There’s another well-known saying in football… one-nil leads are never safe. That’s what the score was when Laca had his chances, and that’s what it stayed.

          Again, stress/underline… pointing this out isn’t taking the focus away from the fact that they outplayed us. Arguments don’t have to be binary. Sometimes two things can both be true.

          1. I don’t even know what claim you think you’re arguing against, but I don’t think I disagree with anything substantive you’ve just said.

            Here’s what Tim said in his piece:
            “As for the Lacazette miss against Tottenham, I felt bad for him. But I also know that if he had scored that chance, it would have been highway robbery, gas station hold-up, knocking over a liquor store, because Arsenal were comprehensively beaten by Tottenham. Arsenal took just three shots in the first 89 minutes. All three shots were from outside the 18 yard box. One, Wilshere’s, was generously awarded as a shot. Meanwhile, that lot took 18 shots, got six big chances, took 9 shots in the prime. That’s a paddlin’ unlike anything we’ve seen at Arsenal since we last played Bayern Munich.”

            I took you to be responding to that paragraph, more or less. In responding to your original post, I was defending the “if we had gotten anything at the end it would have been highway robbery” thought. I take it the point of Tim’s remark (and that whole paragraph) is that:
            (a) There’s a perfectly legitimate sense we can make of “deserving” to win/lose independent of the question of which team scored the most goals (indeed, this, I take it, is what you’re referring to when you say they “outplayed” us). You don’t have to take talk of “desert” and “injustice” literally, since you are free to think that the only literal sense in which one team deserves to win is if they score more goals. But the point is that if a team “deserves” to win by utterly dominating your team (not just in e.g. possession, but in good chances created, etc), then you should be bothered about that even if the end score is 1-1 or only 1-0. Put it this way: a 1-0 loss reflects much more poorly on your team if they also gave up a hatful of big chances than if the big chance count was even (and other stats also suggest it was a close match), though of course it also reflects poorly on your opponents’ finishing.
            (b) Given that Spurs manifestly “deserved” to win in the above sense, Lacazette scoring would only have painted over the cracks i.e. the deeper problems in the team, and thus, Lacazette NOT scoring should not be our primary focus in dissecting “what went wrong” (though it can be one of a number of concerns we have that are of secondary importance). To be clear: it’s not that Laca’s lack of confidence isn’t a problem, or that he shouldn’t shoulder some of the blame for the defeat, but that we’d be missing just how big our problems really are right now if we focused on that particular narrative.

            Obviously I’m adding some of my own commentary in on my gloss of Tim’s paragraph (I reckon I’m more keen to defend Laca than he is), but I think that that’s the main point of his paragraph, and that’s what I took you to be objecting to. In other words, Tim was placing Laca’s miss in the context of an overall performance (and overall season) that was (is) a shambles, even if the score was only 1-0. That context should guide the relative weight we give to various issues in our reactions to Saturday’s loss. I don’t know why you’d object to any of that.

  4. As an aside I plan to do a post checking in on the players we have sold or rented out the last three years.

    Ox
    Walcott
    Giroud
    Szczesny
    Gabriel
    Gibbs
    Lucas
    Jenkinson
    Joel Campbell
    Gnabry
    Diaby
    Vermaelen
    Djourou
    Bendtner
    Fabianski
    Park

    Anyone I’m missing?

    1. Is your cut-off three years? Because I’m pretty sure Bendtner, Vermaelen maybe, are at least 4 or 5 years ago.

  5. Yes, we are a 6th-place team now. I don’t even think Chelsea can get so unhinged as to offer us a path to 5th.

    On the other hand, I’m feeling optimistic about beating City to win the league cup. Just because. On yet a third hand, I’m feeling decidedly pessimistic about our chances of winning the Europa League. If we have to come up against a team like Napoli or Atletico Madrid, we’ll lose. Mind you, on current form, I wouldn’t put it past this side to lose the Ostersund tie. Sure, they’re not as technically gifted as Arsenal, but crucially they have a weapon for which we rarely have an answer: a combination of cohesion and purpose.

    Finally, what alien magic keeps a team like Spurs from longterm injuries to key players? They just keep going and going.

    1. I thought of you the other day. Have you heard of a Canadian rapper named Mcenroe? Check out the album Disenfranchised. It’s excellent and I think you’ll especially like it because he writes about his experience growing up in Canada which I think is similar to yours.

      As for the Europa League and League Cup final..

      Arsenal are going to get out tacticed by every club in that competition. However, our star power MIGHT be able to overcome that. Also however, Lacazette is going to be the main striker because Auba is cup tied. And finally, but that just means Laca will let Ramsey stand in his area instead of punching him in the nuts.

      As for the League Cup final, I’d love to see Wenger get the win, it would be a great send off for him. BUT… if City are in any form, we will get whupped. WHUPPPED. Beaten like the GOP in the mid-terms. City can have bad days, however, and Arsenal might have a good one. We’ll see. It is totally set up for an Aubameyang counter-attacking, 2 shots, 2 goals, win 2-1 for the Arsenal, kind of game. Maybe if Cech has a good game too.

      1. I’ve never heard of Mcenroe. Just looked him up. He grew up very close to where I did. I’ve never been much into hip-hop, though, and there was always only ever one Canadian band on my radar: The Tragically Hip. If I listen to them now, I’m instantly back in my home town, in high school, drinking beer with my friends. I watched their final concert (in 2016), when Gord Downey said goodbye to us, and I was a blubbering mess.

    2. I don’t think we beat City nor that it will be a particularly entertaining game; I see City with 70% possession (because we can’t press in midfield and can’t hold the ball when we win it) and I see Guardiola being very conscious of our counter-attack capabilities, we’ll have less than a half dozen shots on target.

      Europa it will all depend on the draw. We definitely get through the next round at least. If not Wenger has to be fired immediately after the second game.

      1. But doesn’t “crashing out to minnows Ostersund” have a very Arsenal-y ring to it?

        I’m with Bun: I just about give us more of a shot in the league cup final than I do winning (or even getting to the latter stages of) the Europa.

      2. How many times have we managed six shots on target against a top 6 team in the last few years? I think we will have 4 max on target and I’m being generous.

        1. Hate to burst your bubble:
          Arsenal v manure
          Stat Name
          Possession 75% 25%
          Tackle success 81% 53%
          Pass Accuracy 86% 66%
          Shots 33 8
          Shots (On goal) 15 4
          Saves 2 14
          Offsides 4 0
          Fouls Committed 11 10
          Yellows 3 2
          Reds 0 1
          We have had a few others too.

    3. I’d give us a 30% chance in the League Cup final. We don’t play as badly against City as other top teams and they’re far enough better than us that Wenger will set up defensively. They’re much better than us and likely to give us a battering, but we definitely have the quality to hit them on the break even if they’re prepared for it.

      I’d still bet 3-0 City before I’d wager on Arsenal, but we have a chance.

      Wouldn’t be surprised to see us crash out against Ostersund but I’ll guess we get through that, draw someone mediocre like Zenit in the next round, get through that and then lose to the first good team we play in the Quarterfinals. The only chance we really have is that the big boys focus on their league seasons and crash out against minnows and we have a run that looks something like Ostersund -> Celtic -> RB Salzburg -> Nice -> Sporting. Its not inconceivable, last years draw was less menacing but Man Utd won without facing any of the teams that would have looked most scary at this stage (Roma, Spurs, Schalke, Athletic Bilbao.) Obviously Atletico and Napoli are scarier than any of those teams but they’re both still involved in title fights so it would be pretty easy to see them dismissing the competition to focus on that. I almost talk myself into things but realistically, if you look at the 32 teams its not hard to talk yourself into 10 of them spanking us away at a scoreline we can’t recover from at home.

  6. V interesting on Lacazette, who’s still a bit of an enigma.
    His shots per minute of play ratio is actually up on his time in France, with a shot every 36 mins v 43 mins for the 4 preceding seasons. So the drop in conversion rate is the reason for the low haul and, as you say, that could be confidence or it could be better defenders and that he might be good enough for League Un but not for the Prem.
    I hope he is, as I like his movement and his link play (and it’d be a waste of such a big fee!). Auba’s arrival is a threat but the top players have to be able to handle competition, even thrive on it.
    As for transitions, yes we’re in one, and yes, it’s a bit weird after such consistency but any change was going to be different, and difficult, and we can but hope it’s a shorter one than those experienced by Spurs, City, Liverpool (not to mention Everton, Villa, Leeds, Forest…) and more like the 2-3 season blips of Utd and Chelsea.
    I want change but I find it difficult to disparage Wenger in his (pen)ultimate season in charge after so much good stuff and so many good years. I’ll take 6th for a couple of seasons, especially if it includes at least 3 points against the Spuds, a trip or more to Wembley and winter warming midweek European excitement (and yes, I am talking about the Ostersunds game: bring it on, with Laca to score a hatrick!)

  7. Also, contemplating managers for this summer I have decided that I will A) take ANY manager because we have to get the ball rolling on change and I don’t care if they are better or worse than Arsene Wenger B) would love Sari or Rafa Benitez C) think that we will probably get Ole Eyebrowsalotti.

    1. Interesting you mention Rafa. Actually always sort if liked him, even when at Liverpool. Just seemed like any honest and nice guy.

      What is it you like about him?

      1. Well, he’s a tactically astute manager – like actually teaches tactics and his teams are capable of switching formations, changing out players, and adapting on the fly. He likes teaching young players. He seems to get the best out of players (that Newcastle team is dreadful but he’s keeping them afloat). He hates Man U. And he’s a really terrific guy (that we know of).

        1. Yeah, Rafa’s teams have been oft derided as dull but I’d take dull if it meant “can actually defend.”

          1. Really?

            Honestly, “I’d take dull if…” is never a sentence I’m interested in completing. It’s football. My real life has sufficient dullness in it already.

          2. Sure, but not as dull as Rafa’s teams (in my opinion). And anyway, the decision is not between Wenger or Rafa, but between Wenger, Rafa, and a different manager who can coach defense but also plays attractive football (they are out there).

    2. I disliked Benitez at Liverpool intensely. And at Inter all he did was whine about transfer budgets to the point they canned him. He flopped at Madrid because the big names laughed at his micro-managing.

      But his decision to stay at Newcastle after they got relegated and help them come back up made me a bit of an admirer. It showed some humility when he could have probably found a different job in a top league. I’d honestly rather see him stay at Newcastle with a new owner and rebuild that team, the league needs a good Newcastle club, some of the best fans in the world up there.

      1. On Rafa: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

        This is as sure a sign as any that the late-career Wenger era is enough to drive Arsenal fans insane.

        Personally, I loathed him at Liverpool, but have found my heart strangely warming to him since (as a man, I mean). He’s got that chubby Spanish waiter thing going on that’s kinda lovable.

        But as a manager, make no mistake: he is deeply, deeply average (except in one-off cup games against superior opposition, in which he’s quite good at winning ugly in a Mourinho-lite kinda way). That flukey (and it WAS flukey) CL win early in his Anfield career bought him a ridiculous amount of time and goodwill.

        Let’s not forget: his Liverpool team played eye-bleedingly dull, dull, dull, bad, bad, bad football about 90% of the time. And by “bad” I don’t just mean ugly. I mean it wasn’t all that effective either. And if anything, since leaving Anfield he’s been even less successful.

        One final thought: this is a man who wanted to GET RID OF XABI ALONSO AND REPLACE HIM WITH GARETH BARRY. Let that sink in…

        1. He’s not that awful but agreed – he should never be given transfer power.

          He’s good for Newcastle, but not for us.

          It’s very likely Zidane is getting fired at the end of the season barring another Champions League trophy. I wouldn’t mind considering him.

          1. Imagine Zidane walking up to a young French player and his family and asking them to come to Arsenal, a club that is also historically already dear to many French people. Winner winner chicken dinner. He is the very definition of recruitment grease. Pogba wanted to go to Madrid to play for him. Mbappe wanted to go to play for him. Benzema and Varane adore him. Sure those deals fell through because of agents, but imagine a Lemar or younger player that Mislintat identifies. Add Henry into the mix as his bench assistant.

          1. Barry’s a good player, and Alonso went to Real Madrid. I’m sure Rafa sold it as “we got a better player” but let’s be real, Barry was merely a succession plan.

          2. Doc,
            Nope. Barry actually never went to Liverpool. But a full season before Real came in for Alonso, Rafa tried to replace him with Barry, only for the deal to fall through. Rafa himself discussed the whole thing somewhere, I think in an autobiography, but I can’t remember.

  8. If just a year ago someone told me that Arsenal would be playing a game against Tottenham with Aubameyang and Lacazette (two of my favourite Fifa strikers) and that I wouldn’t be interested in watching it, I would’ve slapped him across his silly face.
    But as soon as the Kane goal came in, I turned off the TV and went to play with my daughter. Change can’t come soon enough.

  9. Tim could you do a per100 touches piece on Iwobi?

    That would be amazing because he’s a player I (and it feels like a lot of fans) just don’t understand.

    1. Sure. I think he’s a player who isn’t very good but I’ll check his per100 data to prove myself wrong.

  10. arsenal, with all of the talent they have available, are grossly underachieving. it’s not the players. i’ve always insisted that the problem with arsenal is their resources are being mis-managed. in any other industry, arsene wenger would have been fired by now.

    jack is spot-on when he says that any rebuild requires a blueprint. arsenal, under wenger, appear to be winging it. wenger has tons of time as a manager but the fact that he appears to be winging it implies a lack of respect for the game. i hope i’m wrong but he seems to believe his experience makes him beyond reproach. i’m open to any reasonable rebuttal.

    like tim, i feel bad for lacazette. he was never an adequate replacement for giroud and to watch wenger try and shoe-horn him in as a bpl center forward is an absolute travesty. it’s always been plain to see that there is no way lacazette could lead the line for a top bpl team. that’s been my stance since the summer. tim is right when he says that EVERY bpl team is bigger, stronger, faster, and more physical than EVERY ligue un team. poor alexandre is finding out the hard way what we already knew. of course, his confidence is shot. the last successful center forward to come to the bpl from france was olivier giroud.

    the ideal scenario for lacazette at arsenal was for arsenal to play lacazette along side giroud in a 3-5-2. i believe nothing else will work. as i always say, we’ll see.

    1. That Giroud is one of the few successful strikesr to come from France recently has a lot more to do with the fact that the most successful French strikers of recent vintage have gone to Spain. I’m sure Griezmann and Benzema would have been plenty successful in England.

      I think its a silly conceit that people think moving from one big 5 league to another is so difficult. For all of the talk about the depth in the Premier League, look at the table. There are basically two leagues – the top 6 and everyone else is basically two losses away from a relegation battle. Its not really all that different from any of the other top leagues – yes, there’s way more money but as you travel down the table you get to the larger homegrown contingent and I’d take the 50th best Spanish, French, German or Italian player over the 30th best English one and so on. Excepting Italians, who seem to have pretty much always struggled to adapt in England, probably because Serie A is the slowest major league in the world and the PL is the fastest, pretty much the majority of top class players from the other 3 leagues that have come to England have succeeded.

      I don’t think Lacazette’s problems are because England is too tough for him, I think they’re because the Arsenal team was used to playing with a striker like Giroud and had a hard time adapting to one like Lacazette. In the first 2-3 months, he was constantly making probing runs and not getting any service. At this stage, his problem likely is confidence which is exacerbated by the club bringing in a player who is indeed better than him 6 months after they bought him. Add to that the fact that I don’t really think Wenger ever rated him and the crisis of confidence is to be expected. Also, he’s not very quick for a striker of his style, which definitely hurts him.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he was sold next year nor would I be surprised if he came good now that the team has lost its old focal points and has no choice but to learn to play with him and Aubameyang.

      1. Gaspar nails it. Lacazette has had next to no shots, and while that’s partially on him, it’s also on the team as a whole.

          1. He wasn’t right. I saw him lose a foot race to Swansea’s CB. A few years ago he was regarded as one of the quickest forwards in Europe, so that can’t be him at 100%.

      2. i wasn’t talking about strikers, i was talking about center forwards. also, i wasn’t talking about french forwards but forwards that come from france. no doubt, benzema would have been a huge success but griezmann as a center forward? nah. he’d fare worse than lacazette. he’s a striker, not a center forward. besides, griezmann developed in spain.

        lacazette’s biggest problem is that he can’t keep the ball high up the pitch against premier league defenders. a center forward that can’t keep the ball will fail. it doesn’t matter what else he’s good at, his primary job is to win and keep the ball high up the pitch. forwards tend to score a lot of goals because they’re closest to the goal but it’s not required they be prolific. it’s more important that the team is able to penetrate and create more chances based on the quality of your center forward’s play.

        seriously, if you don’t believe there’s a significant difference between the play in france compared to the play in england……that’s a completely different discussion.

        1. I mean, this is 2018 not 1988 – you can win in England without a focal point who wins high balls up the pitch. Henry was our “Centre Forward” and he was very mediocre in the air.

          There’s not a lot of non-French forwards who go abroad and develop in Ligue 1. I suppose you could say Falcao was a flop in the PL but he’s the sort of CF you’re discussing.

          I guess I don’t really get what you’re grabbing at. If we’re defining Centre Forward as the player who plays in the middle of the park as the most advanced player on the pitch there are boatloads of successful PL forwards who played in that position without being experts at holding the ball up, it is assuredly not a requirement of success. If you’re simply defining CF as the guy who holds the ball up, I don’t get what we’re grabbing at, Lacazette isn’t that sort of player so there’s no reason to compare him to them.

          The PL is certainly a tougher league overall than Ligue 1, but if you are very successful in Ligue 1, you are very likely to also be very successful in England. We’re not talking about the Turkish league or Belgian league here – its a top 5 league and the best players in it are very good players. Many of the best current players in the PL got their start there (Hazard, Kante) and many of the best ever players in the PL also got their start there. Lacazette’s lack of success has nothing to do with him coming from Lyon.

  11. I like Lacazette and I worry for him – he’s a Defoe type of striker and that just doesn’t seem to be the way forward in this team or this league. But I don’t have any real analysis to back that up.

    The stuff in the media about his confidence is maddening – a perfect example of how quickly narratives take hold, suddenly everyone KNOWS that his confidence is shot. His problem is that we are not creating chances for him.

    Some blogger suggested Joachim Low as a Wenger replacement, which might not be a terrible idea. His contract is apparentl yup in the summer, and he and Wenger seem to have a lot in common in terms of their approach, principles, attention to values etc. but Low seems to have a more aggressive win-at-all costs mentality.

    I say all that with no real idea what I’m talking about.

    1. I don’t really think Defoe is a good comparison, Defoe is much quicker than Lacazette and is pretty much just a poacher – that is a dead role in the current PL since nobody plays with two strikers and you really need someone to play off of in that role, either a target man or a deep-lying forward.

      I think Lacazette is perfectly well suited to the PL game but he seems to have lost some speed and that’s crucial for the way he plays. Perhaps that was a consequence of his knee injury and after getting it scoped he’ll get that extra yard back. Time will tell.

  12. Laca out for up to 6 weeks after a “minor” knee op. In Arsenal-speak, that’s his season and his World Cup done. What was I saying about injuries creating opportunities? Only that Laca won’t be the beneficiary. We’d better do some incantation, incense burning and chanting for Aubameyang. This leaves us dangerously thin.

    So the guy who will lead the line in Europe, and who we will summon from the bench to turn games in the league (and yes, try to snatch points even from games in which we’re taking a shoeing), is one Daniel Welbeck, not (let’s put it diplomatically) the most clinical of finishers. It means that Ramsey has become a more important source of goals, and he’ll get serious game time in Europe.

    When, by the way, did we know that Laca would need an op? And would it have changed anything regarding the sales of Giroud and Walcott? Might be Nketiah time.

    1. Obviously complete speculation, but from what little I understand about arthroscopic surgery, it’s very possible (probable?) that his knee has been bothering him for quite some time–he may have been taking cortisone injections–and they only did the op when it became obvious he couldn’t go on. It’s not a huge major surgery for when you’ve blown your knee out, so it’s the sort of thing you do to address niggling injuries. Plus, it sorta makes sense to do it now, as this is the lightest our schedule gets from here on out (though, ironically, this is when the Europa starts up!).

      In Welbz/Eddie we trust!!

      1. I have had three knee operations on the same knee (and now have osteoarthritis – yay!) You can play with a meniscus tear – but not well. It can be a thing where the pain is intermittent and just depends on how you woke up that morning. I competed in judo for 2 years with a torn meniscus before I got the surgery done. I doubt very much if they used cortisone to control the inflammation because that only exacerbates an injury long-term i.e. the player will feel great and resume doing the activity that the body is trying to ask you to stop doing by swelling. That said, scopes these days are very quick operations and he should probably be back to training in 2 weeks or so if it’s managed properly. He’ll probably take another 2 weeks for insurance so if it really is just a meniscus tear the 4 week forecast is correct.

  13. I’d say scoring goals with your shin and shoulder is a lot more difficult than with inside of the boot and head, $hit, anyone can score those.

    When LVG let him go to Arsenal , he got lambasted by United fans and ex players alike for selling to a rival.
    LVG said Welbeck wasn’t United’s standard then and probably wasn’t Arsenal’s either.

    I don’t think it matters anyway ( Laca’s injury) , Arsenal weren’t winning EL with him either.

    We have a better chance of beating City in a one off at Wembley than any two legged EL tie against a quality side , where away goal rule has been Arsene’s bane of European existence .

  14. He isn’t up to the level of any team with serious aspirations, but in mitigation, he’s only third string. But a fair few gooners love him for the thing way down the list of his JD…. pressing from the front. It’s like buying a Ferrari for supermarket runs. And for a big guy, he’s not that productive a header of the ball, except that that memorable, thrilling goal against Leicester.

    And oh, about that first sentence, you couldn’t be serious. It’s not like he intentionally lets the ball bounce off him, is it?

  15. Of course I wasn’t.
    There is this clever montage of Welbeck’s miss hit goals ( I don’t have the link), it’s quite amusing.

  16. ugh, i feel even worse for lacazette. it might be good for him as people will have time to forget about his un-stellar performance on saturday. however, it’s bad for him because if he’s not playing in the europa league, he won’t go to the world cup. he was already on the fringes of the french team.

    claude makes an interesting point; how long has lacazette been injured? you don’t just have a knee scope for a sudden injury. typically, it’s a chronic condition that’s just not improving and they go in and “clean your knee up”. it seems that at the close of every transfer window, arsenal rule someone out through injury that they didn’t replace before the window shut. it’s normally within 2 days. the fact that it’s taken nearly 2 weeks for that shoe to drop surprises me.

  17. Given that Auba was in fact onside, imagine if we’d gotten the correct call and gone on to win the game. (As Tottenham’s record after falling behind suggests).

    Assuming they still out shot us, but failed to score, would the level of pessimism be the same?

    If we’d gotten the correct call and Wenger’s counter attacking strategy had worked would he still be incompetent?

    1. when it comes to derbies with scum, all that matters is the win. that’s a moot point because arsenal didn’t win.

      when he loses, is completely out-played/out-coached, and his team is thrown a comprehensive beating by spuds, he deserve everything he gets. tottenham is never a regular game and he needs to ensure his team doesn’t get dominated the way that they did, ever. he failed and arsenal got embarrassed.

      1. Agreed.

        Also, as sympathetic as I am in general to the point Dr Duh is making, at some point the bad losses have piled up so high that you can no longer legitimately explain them away as bad luck.

        Losing badly–where any neutral viewer would say we’ve been comprehensively beaten–is becoming an ugly pattern for late-career Wenger’s Arsenal. We just lost 3-0 to Swansea ffs!! I want to cheer Arsene on to success after success as much as any other Arsenal supporter. I still think he could get us to go on a run and just about salvage our season (and his job?). But he looks past it. He’s simply not getting the requisite performances from his team on a regular basis, and it’s not even close.

  18. i’m not saying you have to play with a center forward to win in england (leicester city didn’t). however, arsenal currently play a formation that employs a center forward and they use lacazette in that position. likewise, i’ve said nothing about winning high arial balls but about keeping the ball high up the pitch.

    allow me to reiterate, lacazette’s problem is that he loses balls played to him high up the pitch probably 70% of the time. that’s simply unacceptable. it has nothing to do with him being french, short, black, from lyon or anything else other than his inability to keep the ball. if you don’t believe that’s important, we totally disagree.

    the best teams in england have center forwards that keep the ball well. aguero and firmino are examples and they’re similar in stature to lacazette so that proves you don’t have to be some tall, lumbering player to be a top bpl center forward.

    the point about forwards from france is that they typically don’t replicate their success in england. that’s not all inclusive as arsenal’s own giroud and adebayor have proven. likewise, drogba is the bench mark. the difference between these guys and lacazette is that they all keep the ball. i challenge you to watch any random game from this season and watch how frequently he’s dispossessed high up the pitch. arsenal should play lacazette as a striker or sell him. if it were my call, i would have sold him to chelsea and kept giroud.

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