Arsenal have finally got their man. Alexandre Lacazette will arrive in London this week to sign a five-year deal with the Gunners following his big money move from Lyon.
It’s a transfer which manager Arsene Wenger has pursued for three years and after initially baulking at the £60 million price slapped on the 26-year-old by Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, the Arsenal manager has succeeded in negotiating a rather impressive deal in getting Lacazette for a fee in the region of £46m.
'Alexis must leave to win CL'
Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema are all world class forwards Wenger has attempted to sign over the years and while Lacazette may not yet be in the same bracket as those players, he possesses enough star quality to become the club’s record signing, eclipsing the £42.5m fee paid for Mesut Ozil in 2013. And he could be the man to solve Arsenal's striker problem with Alexis Sanchez yet to commit his future to the club.
The mammoth fee will heap pressure on Lacazette to perform, but he can take faith in his impressive goalscoring record for Lyon. Having spent his entire career at the French giants, Lacazette began his career as a winger before shifting to a central role in similar fashion to Gunners legend Thierry Henry. He ended the 2014-15 season as Ligue 1 Player of the Year following a campaign where he scored 27 goals in 33 appearances but rejected moves to various sides in Europe - including Arsenal.
Lacazette has played in every age group for the French national team and revealed that advice from Henry in the summer of 2013 helped influence him to become a better striker. Wenger passed up on the opportunity of signing the Lyon man last summer after Olivier Giroud was selected in France’s Euro 2016 squad ahead of him. But while the two are now competing for a striking spot at Arsenal there remains the possibility that Giroud will look to leave the north London club for a team where he’s guaranteed to be the main striker.
When asked in 2015 if Arsenal could one day sign Lacazette, Arsenal legend Robert Pires told Goal: “Why not? His characteristics and style of play will suit Arsenal.
"Although he doesn’t have a big posture, he’s quick, can dribble, and has great skill. He also scores many goals. Perhaps he will be an Arsenal 'best buy' in the future.”
The signing could also be good news for Mesut Ozil. With one year remaining on his current contract it is crucial that the German international sparks into form next season and replicates his performances of two seasons ago where he became the Premier League's assist king. If Ozil can provide the passes that he has become renowned around the world for, then Lacazette will undoubtedly be there to oblige with his cool finishing.
Lacazette flies in to complete Arsenal move
"He is very active, he can play both sides, technically he is very gifted and he has been scoring 25, 30 goals for the last four years in the French league so he is a proven goalscorer," former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre told talkSPORT recently.
"In terms of adaptability to Arsenal's style, he has all the qualities. He is very intelligent, he can make up the play with [Mesut] Ozil, with [Aaron] Ramsey, with [Danny] Welbeck.
"I think he would be a great addition for Arsenal. And he speaks French!"
Loyalty is a rare trait among footballers nowadays. Their careers are short and many understandably end up playing for whoever offers them the biggest pay cheque, but Lacazette’s decision to finally depart his hometown club for London is the right one. He is entering into the best years of his career and scored 28 goals last season at a rate of one goal every 86 minutes. He has 113 goals in the last four seasons alone.
Wenger may be concerned by the back injuries that have troubled Lacazette in recent years and his weaknesses on the pitch are mostly related to his lack of aerial presence. He is strong, can hold off defenders and possesses enough pace to beat most opposition players in the final third. The high quality of shots converted shows that he could be the man to take Arsenal to the next level, although it is vital that they still keep hold of Alexis going into next season.
Arsenal’s summer arrivals have so far been secured before the start of pre-season. Sead Kolasinac is a left-back who was named in the Bundesliga team of the season and Lacazette is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in France. They may be unproven in the Premier League but both additions are a sign that Arsenal and Wenger mean business going into the new Premier League season — and they could be blessed with a squad which their domestic rivals will be envious of.