By Tony Attwood
There are four possible reasons I can see why Laca has not started each match so far this season:
First, by having one of our three forwards coming on fresh in the second half we can catch out the defence as they tire.
Second, the three forwards have not practiced enough together yet so the tactics need more work on them to make a three man wall of attack work properly.
Third, having three out and out attackers weakens the defence, and they haven’t practiced that yet.
Fourth, and continuing on from the third point above, we need our back four in top condition before trusting to three out and out attackers who don’t drop back meaningfully.
Now that perfect back four would be (at least for me)
Bellerin Holding Sokratis Tirney
With those four playing we could feel safer in terms of the defence and so play the three mainstream attackers together. That leaves us three midfield places… that might be a combination of three from Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Torreira, Ozil, and Maitland-Niles.
But it is interesting that it is not only this year that Lacazette has not started games in August against other teams who have ended up in the top six the season before. It has happened before. That to me emphasises the first and third points above.
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Looking at that situation one wonders if he is one of those players who takes longer than others to get to full fitness at the start of the season.
If we look at Lacazette’s form through his career we can see that at Arsenal he has not been performing at anything like the quality in terms of goal scoring that he achieved before in the season before, at Lyon.
For his first four years at Lyon he was a most modest scorer, his best season being 5 goals in 29 league games in 2011/12, primarily because he was at that time a winger. The following season it was 3 in 31.
But then suddenly it all changed as Laca became the centre forward. In 2013/14 Lacazette scored 15 goals in 36 games. In 2014/15 it was 27 in 33, and this rate continued with 21 in 34 in 2015/16 and 28 in 30 in 2016/17.
Now with Arsenal he has been back towards his earlier form with 14 in 32 in his first Arsenal season and 13 in 35 in his second Arsenal season.
But as we know he also scored a couple of goals in his first Europa League match for the club, in the 4-1 defeat of CSKA Moscow. He also scored in the Europa semi-final 1-1 draw with Atlético Madrid. And what made that interesting was that it was his seventh goal in seven games, since recovering from an injury.
As for 2018/19, the fact that he was voted our player of the season tells us quite a lot, especially when he was named as a substitute at the start by Mr Emery. Indeed last season he didn’t get his first start until the 2-3 away win over Cardiff at the start of September.
So what we are seeing here is the fact that Lacazette has a double importance to Arsenal. First and most important, we have two centre forwards both of whom can play in the biggest of games. If either gets injured we can still put out a highly competent goal scorer in the number nine position.
Second, he can play on the wing and I would not be surprised in a few weeks time to see us have the Pepe, Auba Laca forward line against hyper defensive kick ’em hard clubs residing in the lower reaches of the league, because there is a chance that with VAR doing its job those sorts of teams will start getting the yellow cards.
My thinking would be that some of these players find kicking Arsenal men such an habitual response that they will continue doing it even when on a yellow. Or if they don’t do that they will back off so much that they give Aubameyang and Lacazette more and more space.
So for the Tottenham game, I suspect Lacazette might be on the beach once more, coming on with 30 minutes to go, but of course, that’s just my guess.