12 July 2015

The Heir to Henry? Arsenal move closer to signing French striker...

He's French. He's (potentially) undervalued. Plenty of face, solid finishing, room to grow. Hell, he's the next Henry. The only asterisk to append to that claim, apparently, is that he's already delivered one massive season, scoring 27 goals in 31 Ligue 1 appearances, offering a strong comparison to Henry's delivery at the same age when he scored 17 goals in 31 (or 35) Prem appearances. Let's set aside the nonsense, though, shall we? He's not the next Henry, and it's time to stop billing him as such. As it currently stands, he seems to be a very good striker. Last I checked, we could use one of those.

His pedigree differs from those of other strikers to whom we've been linked—Benzema and Higuaín come to mind, to name just two—but that shouldn't necessarily count as a strike against him. To some degree, each of those has seen his résumé boosted by playing for Real Madrid. By contrast, Lacazette does seem like a player on the cusp of a dramatic leap forward, having led Ligue 1 in scoring those 27 goals in 31 appearances. This represents a surge of sorts from a player who, in his previous season, needed 36 matches to score 15 goals. In other words, he's becoming a bit of a boss and might be ready to make the leap from Ligue 1 to the Prem.

Then again, he stands a mere 1.76m (5'9"). That's a far cry from Henry's 1.88m (6'2") or Giroud's 1.92m (6'4").  It's hard to feel that he would offer the kind of hold-up play or brawn we've come to depend on in the last few years, and it begs a certain question: if he's the same height as Theo, what are we really after? Lacazette might be two years younger, but he would almost certainly need a season or two to adjust to the rigours of the Prem. Why not put away the cheque book, saving ourselves the £21m transfer fee, and allow Theo to play through the middle more often?

Despite those gaudy overall statistics, Lacazette failed to impress when it mattered most. None of his 27 goals came against Ligue 1's top-five finishers, and ten of of them came against its bottom five. He barely registered in Lyon's Europa League misadventures, scoring once as Lyon steamrolled Czech side Mladá Boleslav by an aggregate 6-2 score in a third round qualifier and failing to score at all as Lyon fell to Romanian side Astra Giurgiu on away goals.

Lacazette has stated that a move would "have to be for a Champions League side." However, it seems as if only Liverpool have expressed any serious interest. They, however, can't even offer Europa League competition. The larger question, however, is whether Lacazette is ready to feature for a Champions League side, or even one that hopes to contend for a Prem title.

It would be wonderful to see him lay waste to the Prem and Champions League as he's done to Ligue 1 (but not Europa...), but it's hard to feel like he is ready to rise to that level, especially when such a signing could hinder the development of other players already in the squad. I'm not against signing him, but he doesn't represent an upgrade on what we already have. We've been at our best when Giroud has been a focal point around whom our wingers and midfielders swirl, and Lacazette just doesn't seem to offer that same service. If we're going to throw an undersized, pacey scorer into the middle, let it be Walcott.

If we're serious about developing a more-mobile centre-forward who can also offer a bit of size, we already have Welbeck. He's home-grown, he knows the Prem, and he could grow by leaps and bounds given more time through the middle. Keep in mind how much he had to defer to van Persie and Rooney while at Man U, and how much that deferring stunted his growth. At age 24, he's just as likely as Lacazette to take the Prem by storm—if not more so. Instead of throwing money at a problem, then, it might make more sense to turn inward and hone what we have.