Ligue 1

Alexandre Lacazette: Europe’s Hottest Striker is Worth the Hype

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Unquestionably, Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, has been one of the most talked about strikers in Europe for a couple of seasons now.

“He could go to England,” French football expert Julien Laurens admitted during the recent European Football Show on BT Sport. “Whether that’s Arsenal, Liverpool or Tottenham I don’t know. They will have to pay around £40-£50m for him.”

One of the key factors in landing the 25-year-old will be which clubs are taking part in the UEFA Champions League next season. It is very unlikely that anyone gets a chance at convincing the French international to sign, without a place in Europe’s elite competition, but he is very open to a move.

“I think that the right moment has arrived to leave,” he admitted to TV station Canal Plus this season. “I think that this summer I will need a change of scenery and discover something else, still with the idea of advancing and progressing in terms of football and as a person.”

“I will continue to work, in the hope that good opportunities will come this summer.”

Come the end of this season, he will have spent seven years with Olympique Lyonnais and since that 12-minute cameo against AJ Auxerre in a 2-1 win, he’s made 261 appearances, scoring 119 times.

Originally, he paid his dues as a wide man, playing either side of Lyon’s famous 4-3-3 formation, but over time, as he matured, so did his position, transforming into one of Europe’s most deadly No.9s.

Lacazette’s Phenomenal Scoring Record

This term, although Lyon have struggled to match the form that saw them come third, Lacazette hasn’t slowed down, scoring 22 goals in 22 games – meaning he finds the net every 83 minutes.

Only Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani has scored more, but it helps when you have a couple of hundred million euros of supporting cast around you.

That’s where Lacazette’s potential is frightening. Put the Frenchman at a Manchester City, United, Arsenal or with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool – even linked with a summer transfer for his team-mate, Maxwel Cornet – and you are upgrading his team-mates and making it even easier to find opportunities to score.

Quite often labelled “The Best League in the World!” One thing that the Premier League doesn’t excel in, is water-tight defences. That’s what makes it exciting and that’s what attracts intelligent, deadly strikers, like Lacazette.

Time to Leave Lyon

Alexandre Lacazette celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match

Read More: Lacazette Needs to Step Up Against PSG

Contracted until 2019, now is the perfect time to leave ParcOL, ensuring that the club gets the healthy return it had always hoped for. OL president, Jean Michel Aulas, has played the long game, holding off big money advances, waiting till his club was in the right position to sell the forward on to the highest bidder.

They now have Memphis Depay, Nabil Fekir and Maxwel Cornet, all three ready to pick up the Lacazette baton.

Signing a new deal in 2015, took him to a reported wage of €4.2million per year, that’s 80,000-a-week, and £68,000 at the current exchange rate.

Liverpool pay Daniel Sturridge around £120,000-a-week, with fellow Frenchman, Olivier Giroud, on about £100,000-a-week at Arsenal.

Both clubs, and anyone in the top flight, would be able to almost double Lacazette’s wages without blinking an eye.

But is he worth it?

What does Lacazette bring?

What doesn’t he. During his time at Les Gones, the forward has scored all manner of goals. His finish against Metz takes him to 22 for the season, that’s 85 league goals over four campaigns.

The majority are with his deadly right-foot, but has popped up with a header and a finish on his weaker side too.

That came in the aforementioned game against Metz and it was classic Lacazette.

Lyon broke down the left with Depay and Fekir, as soon as his team-mates have the ball, the striker makes his move to get to the far side of the defender.

Lacazette's finish against Metz was superb.

The opposition may not be renowned for their defending, but when the Dutch winger looks to find a pass, the 25-year-old is free and on the centre-back’s blindside.

Lacazette's finish against Metz was superb.

Two defenders scramble back, the striker shifts the ball from right-foot to left, twice, before finding an exquisite finish on his weaker side. A stunning example of his intelligence, patience and sheer outstanding quality in the penalty area.

As a centre-forward, he has it all.

Liverpool will be looking for pace, he has it. Quite often he plays on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for that defence splitting pass. Then, he’ll use his strong upper-body to hold off bigger centre-backs before finishing.

When Bruno Genesio took over in January 2016, he reverted from the front two than had seemed to get the best out of Lacazette, back to 4-3-3 and it only made him a better player.

He had to learn to play as a target-man, not in a sense of winning high balls up field, but playing with his back to goal, linking up with the wingers, combining with little short passes and making runs and picking out runs in behind.

It added an all-round dimension to his game and has ultimately made his even more dangerous.

In the 4-4-2 diamond, his preferred move was to drift wide, hang between the lines and burst onto his right-foot to finish. That’s still there, something that players like Eden Hazard and Leroy Sané have successful done in England this season, and that gift of being able to play all across the attack is what should be attracting him to the Premier League’s top clubs.

Movement is Lacazette’s strength

Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon battles for the ball with Stefan Mitrovic of Gent

An outstanding one-on-one finisher, better than Cavani at PSG in that regard, regularly showing poise, composure and an unflappable side when bearing down on goal, it’s his movement that sets him apart from other top strikers.

Against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, with an away game tightly balanced, he demonstrated his excellent awareness.

First, he drops deeper, confusing the defence, they don’t quite know whether to leave him or track him.

Movement is key to Lacazette's success.

When the ball is played wide, Lacazette sees the opportunity to pounce. With the defender’s heads turned to track the ball, he advances out of sight, neither the midfield or the defence, that had up comfortably picked up moments ago, see the run.

Movement is key to Lacazette's success.

Then, ghosting unmarked at the far post, he’s there to apply the finish.

Movement is key to Lacazette's success.

You often blame the opposition for not tracking one of the best forwards in Europe, but it’s the movement and intelligence that outsmarts them, that’s all Lacazette.

Reservations – Room to Grow

Alexandre Lacazette (L) of Olympique Lyonnais in action against Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus

One of the biggest doubts about his game is his inability to impress on the biggest stage, when it really matters.

In 11 fixtures against PSG, he’s found the net just once, but showing his loyalty to his club, he has scored five in 12 games in the derby versus Saint-Étienne.

His best opponents are Guingamp, Caen and Toulouse, not exactly Ligue 1 heavyweights.

In Europe, he has 11 goals in 41 matches, but only five in 18 Champions League ties. That’s his biggest black mark, but in fairness, a couple of Lyon’s most recent campaigns have been marked with squad unrest, injuries and just poor periods of form all-round. Hard to single out the striker entirely.

That will come as his team-mates experience improves, especially with a big money move.

What is Lacazette worth?

He is not going to become the next €100million player, no one in France – outside of PSG – will ever achieve that in the next five years, but he is worth an incredibly large fee.

Lyon will look at the money Manchester United paid for Anthony Martial and take away the bonuses, they will want something similar.

You can see him fitting into Liverpool’s three-man attack, either wide or as the middle man. He could play ahead, beside or in place of Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal. Chelsea and Manchester City don’t really need him now, with Spurs the outsider. He could play alongside Harry Kane, or with the English just behind as a No.10.

Aulas will try and hold out for £60million, but anything above £45million would be a good deal for all parties.

You are not just buying someone that would come in and add to your system, adapt to the Premier League and continue to develop at the highest level, but he’s a good team-mate, he makes the players around him better and he is still hungry to find success at the next stage of his career.

Now, the interested parties just must concentrate on finishing in the top four. Then they can fight it out for the French forward.

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