Arsenal signed Alexandre Lacazette from Olympique Lyon for a club record £52.7m. Lacazette is a 26 year old French center forward who scored 129 goals in 275 appearances for Lyon in the French first division.
Lacazette scored his first goal for Lyon against Sochaux on October 30th, 2010 – putting home the winner in the 69th minute of a 2-1 contest. Often deployed wide, Lacazette didn’t start scoring goals in earnest until 2013 when he pulled down a decent haul of 22 in 54 appearances. The next season, Lacazette was permanently given the forward role and rewarded Lyon with 31 goals in 40 appearances. Since then, his goal scoring record has been excellent: netting 91 goals in 129 appearances.
Lacazette has been handed Lyon’s penalty taking duties as well and has scored 23/28 penalties attempted (82%). This has become a point of criticism (because, you know… people) but if we remove his penalty goals, Lacazette had the best return of his career last season, averaging 0.67 goals per90.
This 0.67 goals per 90 is equal to Kun Aguero’s record while playing for Man City (Aguero averaged this over his career at City not just last season: yes, he’s a beast). In fact, each of Lacazette’s last three seasons he has bested the 0.50 goals per 90 (minus pens) which we expect to see with top strikers. The chart below compares his last three seasons with the careers of Aguero, Kane, Giroud, Alexis, and £75m man Romelu Lukaku.
Perhaps the most surprising stat in Lacazette’s career is his 49% shots on goal record. This is actually an incredible stat. Alexis only manages 38% of his shots on target and Aguero 41%. Note that I count shot on goal stats a bit different than others, mine is the simple total shots saved or scored/total shots. Others remove blocks before doing the same calculations.
It’s good that Lacazette gets half of his shots on target, because at Lyon he didn’t get many shots and averaged just 2.7 shots per 90 over his career. It was a bit disconcerting to see that Lacazette only took 72 non-penalty shots last season – 100 is seen as the minimum standard for forwards. Last season Aguero took 134 non-pen shots and Alexis 126.
Lacazette’s career up to now has been one of a player who has created and received limited opportunities. He has done exceptionally well with those shots, like I said above 50% on target is great, but the question is whether less than 100 shots is his ceiling and whether he will get more shots at Arsenal. Your gut reaction is probably “yeah, with Alexis and Ozil feeding him, he could double his shots!” but Lyon actually took more shots than Arsenal last season (15.5 v. 14.9 per game) but those shots were pretty evenly distributed between Lacazette (84), Fekir (71) and Tolisso (66). This is different from Arsenal where Alexis took 129 shots, which was twice as many as Theo Walcott’s 2nd most 62 shots, and three times Aaron Ramsey’s 42.
The questions I can’t answer here is what happens going forward. If Alexis sticks around Arsenal could end up creating more shots with Lacazette in the lineup – though Lacazette’s shots and goals numbers will probably shrink unless Wenger convinces Alexis to give up shooting. And if Alexis leaves, Arsenal will almost certainly redistribute his shots to the remaining players which could prove to be a huge boon for Lacazette. My estimate is that with Alexis in the lineup, if he hits the ground running, Lacazette will score around 14 non-penalty goals next season; without Alexis in the lineup Lacazette should score around 22 (League goals only, assuming injury free season, not counting penalties, estimating .18 strike rate).
The reason total number of shots is important is because a player can’t score if he doesn’t get the chances. Lacazette has scored 18, 19, and 19 non-penalty goals off 72, 92, and 87 shots in each of his last three seasons. That’s an average strike rate of 22%, which is very good. However, unless Arsenal are going to suddenly win a lot of penalties, and he’s going to be Arsenal’s main penalty taker, he will need a lot more shots than he did last year to be a 25 goal-a-year striker. He will need 114 shots at 22% and 133 shots at a more modest 18% strike rate. Even if he continues with his 22% strike rate he would need 30 more shots than his average over the last three season. That’s not impossible but would represent a 36% increase over his last three seasons.
Lacazette’s other stats are rather plain. In his time at Lyon he’s averaged 1.8 successful dribbles per90 at a 53% success rate. This is similar to Aguero’s 54%, but significantly lower in overall total numbers since Aguero manages 2.5 successful dribbles per90. And Lacazette dribbles about half as much as Alexis, who completes a whopping 3.6 dribbles per90 and does so at a 63% rate. Lacazette also passes at the same rate as Alexis (78%) but since he doesn’t see nearly as much of the ball as Alexis his turnovers and bad pass numbers are well below the Chilean. And finally, while Lacazette said on ArsenalTV that he likes to set up his teammates for goals, his career 1.5 key passes per90 is decent but doesn’t paint him as a set-up man.
Lacazette is a small but pacy player who moved from the wide forward position into the center forward position three years ago. Similar to Theo Walcott, he’s got an eye for goal, he’s an accurate shooter, and shows a decent finishing touch but he doesn’t demand much of the ball and as a result won’t turn the ball over as much as the often hounded Alexis, nor will he dribble or create as much as Alexis.
Lacazette has a great goal-scoring record for Lyon but that record has been supplemented with 23 penalties and he may struggle to reach the magical “20 goal season” threshold that many fans expect from a top forward at Arsenal. If Wenger wants to make him into a 20 goal a season man, Wenger’s task is to find a way to get him a huge increase in his total number of shots or create a crazy number of high percentage chances without taking them away from Alexis.
If Arsene can do that, Lacazette will be a huge addition to Arsenal’s attack.
Sources: WhoScored.com, Transfermarkt.com