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