'Lacazette makes the people around him better' - How on earth will Arsenal replace selfless striker?

Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal 2021-22Getty Images

It’s no secret that Arsenal will be revamping their forward line this summer.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gone and Alexandre Lacazette now into the final six months of his contract, a changing of the guard will be taking place at the end of the season.

Mikel Arteta will be turning to something new, with at least two attackers set to arrive to freshen up the Arsenal frontline.

It’s the next step in Arsenal’s rebuild under the Spaniard and it’s arguably the most important part of the overhaul.

Arteta and technical director Edu proved with the signings they made last summer that they can get things right when it comes to identifying and securing talent.

The six new arrivals have all made an impact this season and improved the team, but Arteta knows the forthcoming transfer window is hugely important.

“Now is the moment we have to go to a different level,” he said ahead of last weekend’s win at Watford.

“We have been able to get the squad balance in a much better shape and now is the moment to raise the quality.”

Arsenal's shortcomings in several areas have already been addressed during the past two years.

However, one position has not been touched. Indeed, Arteta has yet to sign a single attacker since he replaced Unai Emery as manager in December, 2019.

Mikel Arteta quote

That will change this summer, with the focus on finding replacements for Lacazette and the recently departed Aubameyang.

Although Arteta insists there is still a chance that the former could stay at the Emirates, it's expected that he will move on once his current contract expires.

And even if he were to sign an extension, the 30-year-old would find himself behind whichever striker Arsenal bring in during the summer transfer window.

But how do you replace Lacazette?

Critics will point to the fact he has scored just three Premier League goals this season, but that does not tell the full story in terms of his importance to Arteta’s vibrant young side.

While Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard continue to grab the headlines due to their performances, Lacazette is proving to be the glue that holds Arsenal’s new ‘Fab Four’ together.

He has taken on extra responsibility since Aubameyang was banished after the Everton game on December 7 and his unselfishness and workrate has allowed Arsenal’s young attackers to flourish around him.

Since the defeat at Goodison Park, which was Aubameyang’s last appearance, Arsenal have taken 25 Premier League points from a possible 30 – no other side has taken more.

Lacazette assists stat

And while Lacazette may have scored just once during that run – a penalty against Norwich – he has created more goals (seven) than any other player in the past 10 games, with his two most recent assists coming against Watford on Sunday.

“Laca knows my movement and where I am,” Saka said after netting in the 3-2 success which moved Arsenal into the Champions League places. “It’s so fun to play with him.”

Arsenal have certainly been transformed as an attacking force since Arteta made the decision to use Lacazette as the focal point of his forward line.

The Gunners averaged just 1.2 goals per game prior to Aubameyang’s final appearance at Everton. Since then, with Lacazette playing as the central striker, they average 2.3.

They are also averaging more shots (17.8 compared to 14.0), more shots on target (5.7 to 4.8) and more touches in the opposition box (34.4 to 23.1).

Possession has increased to 55.6 per cent compared to 49.1% and, most importantly, they are now averaging 2.5 points per game, compared to just 1.5 previously.

Lacazette Arteta quote

Obviously, there are other factors linked to that improvement, but the ability of Lacazette to hold the ball up and create for the likes of Saka, Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Odegaard has been a major factor.

"Laca makes the people around him better," Arteta said of his skipper. "He understands the game really well, he's a really intelligent player and his work-rate is phenomenal.”

It’s vital that whoever arrives at the Emirates during the summer window has a similar skill set, so that Arsenal can continue to get the best out of their exciting crop of attacking midfielders.

Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak is a player admired by Arsenal, as is Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin. There is also a long-standing interest in Jonathan David, who looks certain to leave Lille in the summer.

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All three fit the profile Arteta is seeking: they are young, mobile strikers who link well with others.

It's clear that the next No.9 at Arsenal will have to do more than just score goals.

Arteta has some of the brightest young attacking talents in Europe to call upon right now. Finding the right man to link them together will be essential to ensuring Arsenal’s improvement continues.