Arsene Wenger updated the media today on Alexandre Lacazette’s recovery from minor knee surgery: the striker has started running in training and could return to action as early as the April 1st match against Stoke. Given that for Arsenal 6-week injury layoffs have a nasty way of turning into 3-month layoffs, that the Frenchman’s recovery appears to be on schedule is good news.
Before getting injured against Tottenham in early February, Lacazette was in the midst of a goalscoring drought; he’d only manged 2 goals in 14 appearances since the start of December. Despite his poor form and injury layoff, Lacazette is still Arsenal’s leader in goals this season with 9.
Due to the timing of his injury, he has not had a chance to get significant playing time with new additions Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Perhaps Arsenal’s new-look strikeforce will provide the jumpstart Lacazette needs to rediscover his scoring touch.
Of course it remains to be seen how Arsene Wenger will deploy his attacking options once Lacazette is fit. Will Wenger play him alongside Aubameyang to have two true strikers on the pitch? Will Lacazette or Aubameyang move to a wider roll, relegating Alex Iwobi to the bench? Will Wenger keep the same formation and rotate Aubameyang and Lacazette as a lone striker? Whatever the boss decides to do, it’s a good problem to have.
Lacazette’s return to the lineup will be felt most acutely in the Europa league (should Arsenal not blow its 2-0 aggregate lead against A.C. Milan). The club has basically been forced into playing Danny Welbeck at striker because of Lacazette’s injury and Aubameyang not being eligible to play. Welbeck is a useful depth player, but in his current form, is a sub-optimal choice for Arsenal’s last realistic shot at getting back to Champions League football. Once fit, Lacazette should slide immediately back into a starting role, at least in the Europa League.