Alexandre Lacazette will return to Lyon on a free transfer later this month, ending his five year spell at Arsenal, per multiple reports. The move comes as no surprise to anybody who has been following the club this season; it was clear there was going to be a parting of ways this summer. Mikel Arteta and Arsenal had made vague noises about extending the striker a year or so ago, but those talks didn’t produce anything and the chatter about keeping him in North London cooled to an almost total freeze.
The move won’t officially happen (I don’t think) until his Arsenal contract expires on June 30th. But for all intents and purposes, we can count this as a done deal.
Lacazette joined the Gunners (from Lyon) in summer 2017 for a then club-record £46.5M. He scored 71 goals and added more than 30 assists in 206 matches in all competitions for Arsenal. He leaves the club having helped return the Gunners to Europe next season and with one piece of silverware, the 2020 FA Cup.
There’s not much to be said about Lacazette’s departure from a roster standpoint. It was coming. It was the right move. Arsenal are rebuilding through a youth movement. Lacazette is not young, and it shows on the pitch. He has lost a step or two, which limited his range and his contributions. Mikel Arteta’s system requires a striker who can cover a lot of ground, link up the play, and also put the ball in the net. At this point, Lacazette can really only do one of those three things at a time. And on top of that, he struggled tremendously in terms of scoring from open play.
It’s annoying that Arsenal won’t be getting any type of fee for Lacazette because he’s still worth something. If the contract talks hadn’t broken down and he still had time remaining on his deal, the Gunners probably could have gotten £10-£20M for him. Oh well. We’re seeing an increasing number of players run down their contracts and move on free transfers. Add Alexandre Lacazette to that list.
Lacazette never quite lived up to the hype and expectations of his then-record transfer fee. He scored some important goals and by all accounts was a beloved figure by everyone at the club. He was fantastic leader, model professional, and role model for the younger players. But it wasn’t quite enough. He didn’t become the star player and focal point that you’d want (and expect) a guy brought in to a club like Arsenal for that kind of money to be.
Some of that isn’t his fault, either. Arsenal brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shortly after buying Lacazette, and despite their off-field friendship, the pair struggled to fit together and create synergy on the pitch. They both felt less-than when playing together rather than accentuating the other’s strengths.
Lacazette was also hamstrung by change at the club. He played under three different managers and with a rotating cast of characters around him. Some of the XI’s he featured in were dire. Some were pretty darn good, too. Either way, it always felt like Arsenal getting somewhere short of what they needed from the striker role with him leading the line. And the results don’t lie. Alexandre Lacazette was one of the two primary attackers during one of the worst five-year stretches in club history and probably the worst in the Premier League era.
In a way, he personifies the last five years at the club — good, sometimes very good, but at the same time, not good enough.
I like Alexandre Lacazette. I mostly enjoyed watching him at Arsenal, this past season notwithstanding. His wide smile and penchant for antics with his teammates was a much-needed reminder not to take things too seriously and that sport should be fun. Letting him walk was the right move for Arsenal. I hope he does well back at Lyon.