When Alexandre Lacazette banged home our winner against West Ham on Saturday all Arsenal fans breathed a sigh of relief.
We hadn’t been playing particularly well but three points were essential if we were to hold out any hope of European football next year.
I wouldn’t have cared how we got the winner – a rebound off Mark Noble’s backside would have suited me just fine. But I was pleased that it was Laca who made the decisive intervention.
He has not exactly been a fan favourite this season and I have read numerous comments to the effect that we should “dump” him at the end of the season.
Oh, how fickle we fans can be.
I think it’s time to add a bit of perspective to the Lacazette debate.
Yes, he had a rotten run for a large part of this season and his goal drought was becoming positively Saharan. But if you look at Lacazette’s record across a longer period you see a consistent scorer who’s generally good for a goal every second game.
That’s doesn’t make him Thierry Henry, but it also doesn’t make him Lenny Henry. A goal every two games in an EPL season means you end up with 19 goals, which is a solid return, especially in a team where your strike partner is considered the principle scoring threat.
In his Lyon career Laca hit the back of the net 100 times in 203 appearances. In his first season in North London (2017/18) he managed 17 goals in 33 starts. The following season he bagged 19 in 36 starts.
And hopefully, as the West Ham strike illustrates, he is starting to get back to scoring form just in time for the business end of the season.
Since breaking his drought in the 4-0 win over Newcastle (when he came on in the 85th minute and managed a somewhat lucky goal) he has played 243 minutes of footy and scored three times (at an average of one goal every 81 minutes).
It hasn’t all been great. That 243 minutes includes 109 goal-less minutes against Olympiacos on the night we were ousted from the Europa League. But there are signs that Laca is coming back to being the striker we know him to be, as the winner against West Ham indicates.
I don’t want to overstate the level of doubt people have had about him. I certainly don’t think the crowd has been giving him a hard time or anything of that sort. But I have detected a widespread sense that he’s not really up to it, which is just wrong.
In addition to his goal scoring abilities, Lacazette is a very hard worker, always closing down the opposition and defending from the front. Even in the midst of his miserable run in front of goal I never saw him hide for a second.
So let’s all be thankful that a top quality player looks as if he is on the way to regaining his confidence and touch.
When Laca is back, The Arsenal benefits.