Arsenal’s ray of hope over Alexandre Lacazette and his future role under Mikel Arteta

A cross from the right wing flew in at the near post, clattering off one team-mate before eventually dropping at Alexandre Lacazette’s feet. Immediately the Burnely defence swarmed towards him, two players at his rear whilst another closed in to his left.

Lacazette could scarcely stay on his feet as he wriggled away, desperately trying to craft an inch of daylight with which to fire at goal. Once it finally came there was nothing he could do to retain his balance. Falling backwards into the arms of his opponent he flung his right-boot at the goal.

There was nothing Nick Pope could do as the ball flew through his legs and into the net. Out of nowhere Lacazette had found the net. It seemed an almost impossible chance when the ball first broke to him but then Arsenal’s No.9 had been making something out of nothing for quite a while now.

Five-and-a-half months after that brilliant goal in a 2-1 win over Burnley at the Emirates Stadium Lacazette found himself in a similar position. The same opponent, his back to goal once more as he worked the ball onto his deadly right foot.

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The Burnley defenders could not get quite as tight. Their numbers were lessened, they lacked half a yard of spring after 83 gruelling minutes. This chance was better, albeit not by much (its expected goals value 0.35xG versus 0.31).

This time Lacazette couldn’t work the space. James Tarkowski came diving in, getting enough of his body in the way to take any fizz out of a shot that looped up easily for Pope.

If any moment typified Lacazette’s difficulties of late it was that. The Frenchman may not have been a volume goalscorer since joining Arsenal in 2017 but his recent struggles are of real concern in north London with no goals to his name in nine games, his joint-longest cold streak in north London.

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Publicly and privately he retains Mikel Arteta’s faith but there is undoubtedly something different about Lacazette of late. From afar this does not appear to be a player whose luck is running out, who just needs one or two to trickle their way in before a deluge of goals arrive. The 28-year-old has always brought more than goals to the Arsenal cause but right now he appears to be struggling to get in position to miss chances, let alone to find the net.

Shoot your shot

After returning to the Arsenal starting line-up in October following an ankle injury goals were not necessarily flowing freely for Lacazette but he was at least getting into positions in which his team-mates could create chances for him.

Between October 26 and December 28 Lacazette ranked sixth in the Premier League for average xG per 90 among players who had played sufficient minutes to be statistically relevant (492 in this instance).

Struggles in those early games could be discounted as rustiness and he was still making contributions…