How misfired Arsenal lost their touch


Stop Lacazette, stop arsenal

It was Patrick Vieira, a Frenchman formerly captain of Arsenal, who identified the club’s current French captain as the key figure in their attack.

The Crystal Palace manager prevented Arsenal’s advance into the top four this month by scoring a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park and it was his attempt to stop Alexandre Lacazette that proved crucial against Mikel Arteta’s side .

In Arsenal’s impressive run following the exile of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in December, Lacazette had been crucial to their attack in a creative role, routinely bringing the best of the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe to his side.

By dropping deep into midfield, Lacazette had spent much of 2022 making room for his teammates.

In 12 games from mid-December to early March, he provided an impressive seven assists from his “false nine” position.

Vieira sent out his players to squeeze Lacazette from either side, giving his defenders freedom to leave their positions and follow the Arsenal striker into midfield. A few days later, Graham Potter took a similar approach at the Emirates Stadium, where his Brighton side won 2-1.

Lacazette had another ineffective game, mostly because he was often sandwiched between an opposing defender and a midfielder.

Lacazette’s cause was not helped by his lack of goals. He is the most underperformed player in the Premier League this season when comparing his tally (four goals) to his expected goals (nine).

In other words, he’s scored five fewer goals than his chances would suggest.

Lacazette missed Saturday’s defeat at Southampton after testing positive for coronavirus and Arteta turned to Eddie Nketiah, 22, a different type of player who was making his first league start of the campaign. Arsenal again failed to find the net despite 23 shots. Tonight Arsenal will look to rediscover their scoring chances at Chelsea.

There have been 11 instances in the Premier League this season where a team has had 20 or more shots but failed to score. Arsenal account for three of them.

Own conclusion

As a team, Arsenal have suffered their biggest underperformance in the Premier League since the turn of the year, scoring just 13 goals from an expected total of nearly 22.

Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, have scored 34 goals out of an expected tally of 29.54 – the highest overachievement in the division.

The obvious question is whether things would be different for Arsenal if Aubameyang wasn’t allowed to go to Barcelona. It’s worth noting that the former captain also struggled in front of goal before his departure.

Excessive trust in youth

The importance of Saka and Smith Rowe is unquestionable. With 10 goals each this season, they are their club’s top scorers and are enjoying the most successful campaigns of their careers.

Saka and Smith Rowe play with such maturity that it’s easy to forget how young and inexperienced they are. Saka is 20 years old while Smith Rowe is 21 years old. No other team in the Premier League are as dependent on youth as Arsenal and it’s only natural that those players will see slumps in form.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] How misfired Arsenal lost their touch

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