A lot of Liverpool fans may be concerned about Alexandre Lacazette signing for Arsenal, but in reality it’s a move that at best keeps last season’s fifth-place finishers where they already were. That’s because while Lacazette is arriving, Alexis Sanchez is getting ready to head out the door.
It’s not at all a slight on Lacazette to call that an even swap at best; treading water. And that’s at best when one considers that Lacazette’s impressive goal return was inflated by penalties, and that in the league and Champions League last year, the Frenchman scored 28 non-penalty goals.
By comparison, Sanchez scored 27, and the industrious Chilean brought things to Arsenal’s play from his free position on the wing that Lacazette is unlikely to as a centre forward. As far as goals go, though, it’s a swap. Or it’s a swap if Lacazette can maintain his Ligue 1 pace in England.
And that’s going to be a tough ask. Few strikers arriving from a lesser league—and despite their improvements in recent seasons, France’s Ligue 1 is a lesser league—and maintain their goal output in year one. If Lacazette did, he would be unusual. But even assuming he does, it’s a wash.
Then there’s the matter of Olivier Giroud, who will either be on the bench when Lacazette starts or heading off to pastures new in search of playing time. His attacking contributions, his 14 league and Champions League goals and five assists, will need to be made up for.
That job, then, will fall in turn to whichever player ends up replacing the departing Sanchez on the wing in Arsene Wenger’s first choice eleven. Not that any of that should make anyone think Lacazette isn’t a wonderful signing—he’s certainly better than Liverpool did when they lost Luis Suarez.
But of course, that summer, Liverpool had just got off a Steven Gerrard slip and coming second in the league. Even if Lacazette in the end helps to keep Arsenal about where they were in 2016-17, where they were in 2016-17 was in fifth place with Manchester United snapping close at their heels.
For the Gunners, as good as Alexandre Lacazette is, he isn’t a signing that improves them, and if the London club are to reclaim their spot in the top four in the coming season, they will need to find ways of not just treading water—they will need to find ways to improve.