Arsenal’s signing of Alexandre Lacazette was announced on Wednesday evening. It has brought the end to one of Europe’s longest, most persistent transfer rumours. Along with the tedious Karim Benzema murmurings, Lacazette has been linked with a move to north London since he shot to prominence with 15 Ligue 1 goals in 2013/14.
The Lyon striker has been one of the continent’s most prolific, reliable goal scorers since that season. His finishing has been relentless, even in a period of relative indifference for Lyon after their Ligue 1 dominance in the first decade of this millennium.
There’s a lot to like about this deal for the Gunners. The price is – in a market where Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku will cost around £70 million – not too grotesque, and Lacazette brings seasons of goal scoring pedigree with him. The timing of the signing is significant too. While Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham have made two major acquisitions between them, Arsenal have completed their marquee summer signing even before they set off for their pre-season tour.
Completing the Jigsaw
Next up for the shirt-holding, over-the- top Twitter announcement is expected to be Riyad Mahrez as Dale O’Donnell reported. Mahrez’s future is certain to be away from Leicester City, but the Algerian’s inconsistent, underwhelming 2016/17 campaign with the Foxes has seen the market for him becalm.
Mahrez’s talent is unquestionable, even if his application and decision making was hazy at times last season. Given the freedom to play – as Arsene Wenger would certainly give him – Mahrez could quickly send reminding shockwaves across Europe of just how good he was during Leicester’s remarkable title victory. His dancing feet, sharp left-footed shooting and under-valued passing would fit superbly into Arsenal’s current style.
The concern will remain, however, that Mahrez’s heroics in 2015/16 were the exception to the rule. Pressure would be greater on Mahrez, perhaps, than on Lacazette as a result. The Algerian will be under the burden of proof to show he belongs at the top, with others questioning whether he will follow in the footsteps of many a talent into a career of disappointment.
Rule of Three
Joining Lacazette on pre-season tour will be their other summer signing to date, Sead Kolasinac. The left-back can cover at centre-back and enjoyed a superb 2016/17 campaign with Schalke.
With Mahrez expected, Lacazette completed and Kolasinac’s arrival almost a distant memory, it is expected that Arsenal’s summer business is wrapped up. Wenger had said before the window begun that the club would be adding three players to the squad this summer and it would be substantially un-Arsenal to alter that plan at this stage.
Kolasinac addresses a position that was a weakness for the Gunners last season, as Nacho Monreal regressed and Kieran Gibbs’ inconsistences look to have him consigned to a move away from the Emirates in this window.
Arsenal’s summer business must always be qualified on the ‘if Alexis Sanchez stays’ clause. Without Sanchez, this summer is passable. With Sanchez, this summer gives Arsenal a squad capable of returning to where the fans feel they belong: title contention.
The concern from the ever-outspoken Gunners fan base will be sales now. It is not just Sanchez and Gibbs rumoured to be out the door, as Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could yet both move to other Premier League clubs before the season starts.
Depth has blighted Arsenal in the past couple of seasons and these three signings’ importance will truly be judged on the players that Wenger can retain.
Lacazette might be the addition of the summer, Mahrez gives a bench option in 3-4- 3 or completes a fearsome attacking quartet in a 4-2- 3-1 and Kolasinac is a welcome upgrade on the left. If Giroud, Chamberlain, Sanchez and Ozil are still Gunners come opening day, Arsenal will have a squad not only capable, but expected to be in a tight title battle.