Is it possible to fit both Lacazette and Aubameyang in the same Arsenal XI?
Written by: Punit Tripathi
Let’s just start with the answer, YES, it is. While it needs a lot of strategic tweaks that Unai Emery may or may not be willing to make, but the dynamic pair, signed for a combined £102.5 million, can comfortably feed off each other if played the right way.
For understanding how this system can work in sync with the whole team, we need to understand the kind of football the French and Gabon striker contribute with, their hits and misses and the kind of gameplay they thrive on. First, we’ll take a look on Alexandre Lacazette, only because he arrived at the Emirates before the former Borussia Dortmund star.
With a strike rate of close to 50% in Ligue 1, Lacazette came to the Premier League with a reputation. The man who played for Olympique Lyonnais for seven seasons, is known for his close control and his desire to get into the right space and his finishing ability. The 1.75 m man led his former club through several UEFA Champions League campaigns and scored some memorable goals.
Watch: Can Lacazette and Aubameyang play in the same team?
He’s not wasteful, and records suggest the same. Lacazette averaged 29 passes at 77% completion rate and 1.5 key passes per 90 minutes last season in the scarce minutes he played in the Premier League, proving his mettle until the man from Germany arrived.
Lacazette is a clean finisher. His feet position before he attempts to hit a ball is usually precise, meaning the Frenchman rarely takes low-value shots. Laca can turn on the ball, is a smart dribbler, is capable of picking out passes and is also an effective last man when played at the top. The 27-year-old, though, lacks express pace, and physicality, something that has been deemed crucial for success in the Premier League. This is exactly where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang comes in the fray.
A conversion rate of 68% in the Bundesliga is no mean feat, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is different that most No. 9s in the world. With physicality and express pace already in his court, the man needed to work on his link-up play and take-on ability to succeed in the Premier League.
Watch: Aubameyang goals, speed and skills
At Arsenal, and under Arsene Wenger to be specific, any player can develop link-up play abilities second to none in the world. Wenger’s short stay after Aubameyang’s arrival may have jolted his smooth growth, but Emery isn’t too poor in terms of the same. The former Sevilla and PSG manager has worked hard, and Aubameyang’s late goal against Cardiff showed exactly that.
Auba is arguably the fastest striker in the world, both over long and short distances. He’s also tall, strong, has a good head and is durable in terms of pressing and long phases of non-ball play. The 29-year-old doesn’t try to drop too deep to help overall gameplay, but is ever-present in the box, lurking at every opportunity.
Formation that suits best
While a lot has been tried and tested by both Emery and Wenger in the last eight-odd months, a lot has been written about the suitability of the pair. A 4-1-3-2 and a 4-2-3-1 have both been tested, with Laca falling at the No. 10 position, Auba featuring at the left wing position, and both featuring parallel in a double-pivot.
Meanwhile, looking deep into the gameplay and the characteristics they bring to the pitch, a dynamic 4-2-2-2 looks best in terms of style, with Mkhitaryan featuring down the left flank and Mesut Ozil helping the right side. The effective runs of Nacho Monreal/Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin from the full-back positions also holds the key, as the wing-pair of Ozil-Mkhitaryan need the comfort and freedom to tuck inside to allow these strikers to interchange positions, run behind defenders and make full use of their creative boots.
With Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey/Mattéo Guendouzi sitting right behind and comfortably spraying passes to ensure fluidity, Emery must task Lacazette with the dropping down duties in the hole if the opposition is defending centrally. Pulling a defender with him will create a gap, and that must be used by Mkhitaryan or the faster and willy Aubameyang in space.
Ozil, too, has a key role to play in this case. The German passer needs to find his mojo for one-touch creative flair and find those through balls he regularly did, during his time at Real Madrid. With faster players around, Ozil thrives, flourishes and prospers.
In the meantime, Xhaka needs to make sure that he doesn’t make mistakes with possession. If the forward-pressing team stops the forward flow, it hampers the shape and the ball needs to be passed back to ensure re-start of the chain. Thus, Xhaka needs to understand that holding onto the ball for too long isn’t his duty, and finding Mkhitaryan and Ozil are the easier options. If the creative linchpins are marked well, the ball must be transferred to the full-back, and the pressure and shape must be maintained. The centrally-falling Lacazette, too, is an option for the Swiss midfielder.
Fluidity has always been a part of Arsenal’s gameplay and players that arrive at the Emirates are second to none in terms of finding players and space on the pitch. Emery needs to utilise his prolific pair to ensure they bring back the glory days to the London Stadium, something that has been long for a little too long now.
Published: Sat Nov 10, 2018 06:08 PM IST