By Edward Stratmann
Despite only registering one goal in his last five matches, there's no doubting Alexandre Lacazette has been one of Arsenal's premier performers this season.
Sitting on five Premier League goals, the Frenchman is relishing working under Unai Emery's tutelage. He’s operating with confidence, conviction and intensity, and his contribution has extended far beyond just goals.
His movement is a great place to start, with this aspect of his game benefiting both he and his teammates extremely well. Constantly scanning his surroundings, the 27-year-old is always on the lookout for openings to exploit in order to destabilise his opponent.
Whether dropping deep to link play, venturing out wide, surging in behind, fluidly interchanging position with his colleagues or through his out-to-in diagonal runs, the former Lyon star has been a very tough man to contain.
Although many of his intelligent runs have gone unrewarded, there's been plenty of instances where his movement and spatial awareness have directly and indirectly led to chances and goals.
As shown in the example below, his concentration and smarts to precisely time, angle and direct his runs have been crucial in helping him breach defences while remaining onside.
By embarking on his runs on the blindside of his tracker, Lacazette has a dynamic advantage over his marker. This method has given him freedom and momentum to shoot or control the ball.
Improving his understanding with his teammates all the time, Lacazette and the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have shown signs of how they can unhinge their opponents with their complementary movements.
It must be said, however, that getting these mechanics spot-on takes time, something that's especially noticeable when Lacazette and Aubameyang are deployed together. With both men preferring to be the centre forward and typically used to occupying the same spaces and making similar movements, it's understandable why they aren't completely cohesive yet.
The France international has supplemented all of his assets with instinctive finishing, where he's blended power, placement, composure and finesse. With an expected goals rate of 4.29 in the league, he's outperformed with five goals - a testament to his clinical finishing.
Picking his spot with accuracy and authority even when under pressure or at full speed, Lacazette’s technique and execution have been key.
While his hold-up play and back-to-goal work aren't his strongest assets, Lacazette's still proven his worth here. He's used his strength, low centre of gravity and stocky frame to make life challenging for his markers.
Sound in his first touch, with his chest control and link-up play, Lacazette usually finds a teammate in a better position, as well as unlocking defences with his incisive passing.
The best example of this came in the lead up to Arsenal's goal of the season contender against Fulham, where his crafty interplay was the catalyst for a sweeping end-to-end move.
Meanwhile, Lacazette’s close control and capacity to beat his man in one v ones have been admirable too, allowing him to maintain possession as he searches for a colleague or to breeze past his man in an instant using a shimmy, feint or shoulder drop.
Lacazette’s tidy contribution can be summed up by his numbers - a 31 per cent chance-conversion rate, 2.2 shots per game, 2.3 key passes per game, 1.2 aerial duels won per game, eight loose ball pick-ups per game and 4.5 touches inside the box.
Even though Lacazette’s been terrific this season, Unai Emery's constructive criticism of him in the wake of Arsenal's draw with Crystal Palace shows there is still room for refinement in his game.
"For him, last year, his first year in the Premier League, it was a different league than the French league,” said Emery. “The position was also different, the rhythm also, not the mentality because he has a very good mentality. He is very efficient.
“But he needs to continue his adaptation for us, for the Premier League, for the rhythm. This year we are looking at him one step more in this level. We are very happy but my message to him is: ‘Every day, don’t stop’.
“Don’t stop in training, don’t stop in matches, carry on to find your best performance. Not even just in matches but in each minute of the 90 minutes, and he is doing that.”
All things considered, it'll be intriguing to see how the man who combines athleticism, physicality and technique fares as the season progresses.
Having being involved in all 12 of Arsenal's league matches to date and produced many highlights, there's absolutely no reason to suggest Lacazette can't go from strength to strength as he continues to adapt to Emery's methods and fine-tune his relationships with his teammates.
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