No player will have more pressure on him in the English Premier League next season than Alexandre Lacazette. You might not have heard of the 26-year-old Frenchman, but Arsenal just set a club record when it agreed to pay Lyon what could amount to $68 million for his transfer.
Lacazette has played his entire career at Lyon and in his last four league seasons has scored 15, 27,
21 and 28 goals. Two years ago, he was Ligue 1 Player of the Year. But he has never played in a competitive match for France, whose frontline features Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri
Payet, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac as well as youngsters Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Anthony Martial.
Arsenal had been pursuing
Lacazette for years, but he arrives at a turning point for the Gunners.
Their record of 19 successive UEFA Champions League seasons ended when they finished fifth in 2016-17, 18 points
behind champion Chelsea and a point behind fourth-place Liverpool.
To the surprise of many, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's contract, which expired at the end of last season, was
extended two years.
And Lacazette arrives amid uncertainty about the Gunners' makeup for the 2017-18 season. Stars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil both want big boosts in
their salaries and might be on their way out of the Emirates.
Lacazette's reasons for playing for the Gunners are simple. They were his favorite childhood team growing up in the
Mermoz section of Lyon.
"Arsenal are the club that plays the best football in England, so I really wanted to come here," said Lacazette. "Throughout my childhood and thanks to
Arsenal's former striker Thierry Henry and other French players, I always dreamed of playing for this club so that dream has been fulfilled. I like clubs with a history and the fact that the
manager has been here for a while shows that it is a stable club. There are quite a few French players at the club which will make it easy to settle in."
Indeed, Wenger will enter his
22nd season as the manager at Arsenal, whose squad boasts six Frenchmen with Lacazette's signing.
The Paris newspaper Le Parisien reported that Wenger met with Lacazette in mid-June and convinced him to
sign with the Gunners. (Lacazette was reportedly set to sign with Atletico Madrid until its summer transfer ban was upheld.)
Arsenal already has one French striker -- Giroud, a regular
with the national team but role player on the Gunners -- but Lacazette should step in right away and start. He's a pure goal-scorer but can play a number of positions -- center forward, winger or No.
Lacazette has speed and an ability to dart into space and confound opposing backlines. Arsenal is hoping all of Lacazette's qualities -- finisher, versatility and attacking acumen --
outweigh his lack of size. At only 5-foot-7, he is not going to win many balls in the air. But then that has never been the Gunners' game.
"We are very happy to have Alexandre join our
group," said Wenger. "He has shown over a number of years that he can score goals and that he is a very efficient finisher. He has very interesting technical qualities and a strong character. So he is
a guy who is a great addition for us, and someone who will help us challenge at the top level this season."