Why Sydney fans should be excited by Arsenal’s $90 million man

"What is the name of the Welshman at Real Madrid?" pondered Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas in January 2015. "I think Alexandre is much better than him".

Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette will make his Arsenal debut in Sydney Source: Getty Images

Fans of Arsenal will be desperately hoping Aulas is right. But any hopes the London club might have had of easing Alexandre Lacazette gently into the spotlight of the Premier League were never going to last. 

Expectations are already sky high - fan boards are crashing with predictions, Twitter is exploding, and YouTube’s servers are under severe strain now that everyone is hunting for highlights of the last Ligue 1 season, where he scored 28 goals in 30 games.

Even Gerard Houllier acknowledges Lacazette can be as good as Ian Wright – voted the fourth greatest Gunner of all time. 

So, just how lucky are the citizens of Sydney? 

They’ll get the first official glimpses of him in action in a red shirt, first on Thursday night against Sydney FC and again on Saturday night against Western Sydney Wanderers (both matches live and exclusive from 7:30pm on SBS VICELAND).

Best of all, manager Arsene Wenger has cast aside the cotton wool and confirmed he’ll play. 

But many out there will be still be wondering what the fuss is all about – and why Arsenal have paid an astronomical fee for a player who hasn’t played a single game in the big four European leagues. 

Put simply, his strike rate at Lyon was consistently outstanding. His goal-scoring record in the past four years is 15, 27, 21 and 28.

Some might argue the pick of those seasons was the 2014-15 season, when he not only outscored Zlatan Ibrahimovic (by eight goals) and Edinson Cavani (by nine goals) but was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Season. 

It was during this period that Lacazette was converted from a winger to a striker, much in the same way as Arsene Wenger did with Thierry Henry all those years ago.

Now 25, he brings pace, intelligence and clinical finishing – but isn’t afraid to press from the front, either. The hefty price-tag looks justified.
Just for context, before Olivier Giroud signed with Arsenal, he had two seasons in Ligue 1 with Montpellier – scoring 12 in his first season and 21 in the next. Lacazette’s resume at the same age is infinitely more impressive. 

The foreign legion has always been part of Arsenal’s make-up under Wenger but the French connection really has been his forte. Nowhere more than in attack, and far beyond Giroud. 

Henry has been consistently rated as the club’s greatest ever player and is arguably the Premier League’s greatest of all time.

Robert Pires, a genius of attacking midfield, scored an inordinate number of goals and set up probably twice as many. 

Sylvain Wiltord was an ever-reliable contributor with an uncanny knack of being part of title-winning teams (two at Arsenal, three at Lyon, one at Bordeaux, two FIFA Confederations Cups and one European Championship) and scoring title-deciding goals. 

It is upon the shoulders of these giants that Lacazette now stands. And if expectations weren’t already enough, his nationality means they are are now surely even higher. As a rule, Gallic Gunners don’t usually fail. 

But Lacazette’s tenure may be defined by those around him. At the moment, it’s unclear whether he’ll be sharing the attack with Alexis Sanchez and/or Giroud, given both have been linked with moves away.

Turned into a bench specialist last season, Giroud, now 30, is expected to seek more game time elsewhere – though he he has made the trip to Australia. 

Sanchez is a little trickier. He’s hinted at moving away for months but the signing of Lacazette would signal that Arsenal are ready to challenge for the honours he craves.

Add the revitalised Mesut Ozil and you’ve got a front three that could – all things being equal – be as potent as any in the league, especially if Monaco’s Thomas Lemar signs on for an estimated £45 million (A$76 million).

And then there's still Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Joel Campbell in reserve. 

For now though, all eyes will be on the new signing. If he lights up the stage in Sydney, the whole world will be waiting to see what happens next. 

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4 min read
Published 12 July 2017 at 7:16am
By Sebastian Hassett