Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Even PS52m Fee Won't Guarantee Lacazette Lead Role; Club Record Buy Is Viewed as a Step Up from Giroud but Wenger Insists They Are Equals. James Olley Looks at the Battle That Has Already Taken Place in France Colours

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Even PS52m Fee Won't Guarantee Lacazette Lead Role; Club Record Buy Is Viewed as a Step Up from Giroud but Wenger Insists They Are Equals. James Olley Looks at the Battle That Has Already Taken Place in France Colours

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE is Arsenal's record signing but Arsene Wenger is not in the mood for offering any assurances as another Premier League campaign begins.

The 26-year-old is expected to make his home debut against Leicester City at Emirates Stadium tonight with the Gunners aiming to improve on a dismal recent record in the first match of the season.

Arsenal have won just one of their past seven matches on the opening weekend -- and even that was a frantic 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace in 2014 courtesy of Aaron Ramsey's stoppage-time winner -- but Lacazette's addition is one cause for optimism this time.

Olivier Giroud is a symbol of the cycle Arsenal are in: likeable, unsurpassed at times yet fundamentally flawed and lacking the consistency to deliver the biggest prizes.

Giroud is seemingly doomed never to escape this assessment. He was booed on occasion by France supporters during their run to the final of Euro 2016, yet he has 17 goals in his past 18 starts at international level.

Given Lacazette's price tag and goal record at Lyon -- where he scored 76 Ligue 1 goals in 97 appearances across the past three seasons -- he is viewed as an upgrade and yet he watched that tournament at home.

Les Blues coach Didier Deschamps had his reasons for the omission, chiefly that he believed Giroud to be a better foil for Antoine Griezmann, the team's undisputed star, with Andre-Pierre Gignac a more suitable deputy than Lacazette, or for that matter, fellow Lyon forward Nabil Fekir.

Lacazette has just 11 caps but price tags almost always influence perceptions; the PS52.7million man surely begins this campaign ahead of Giroud for club yet behind him for country.

That inevitably led to speculation Giroud could leave but he has so far rebuffed interest from Everton, West Ham, Marseille and Lyon with Wenger insisting there is no pecking order. "We have two top-class strikers. Olivier Giroud will play, Lacazette will play. There is not a definite priority. They are a different style of player and they can play together as well."

Wenger is typically fond of attacking players with versatility and Lacazette is no different. It remains eminently possible he could indeed play in the same line-up as Giroud given the former was used in preseason in support of a central striker as part of the 3-4-2-1 system Arsenal will begin this season with.

Lacazette scored against Sydney FC and Sevilla in pre-season before leading the attack against Chelsea in last Sunday's Community Shield against Chelsea. A somewhat underwhelming performance almost yielded a first-half goal out of nothing, creating space in the box to curl a right-foot shot against Thibaut Courtois's left-hand post.

Lacazette's impressive goals-togames ratio will only encourage Wenger to utilise him through the middle and it is difficult to imagine Arsenal's preferred front three will not comprise Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in support once the pair return to full fitness [and assuming both stay put]. …

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