It must be an unusual feeling to be your side’s primary goalscorer but not the focal point of the team. That is the bemusing situation Alexandre Lacazette arrived at Arsenal under; expected to improve the goal tally, and requiring a club-record transfer fee in the process, yet still some way behind Alexis Sanchez in terms of importance.
Of course, the confusing feelings of that scenario were further amplified by the relentless focus placed on the Chile forward by the media as his Gunners contract wound down.
While the South American’s much-awaited transfer to Manchester United only went through this evening, Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday had the feel of the first match of the post-Sanchez era, and it proved to be not just Lacazette who embraced the chance to step out of the Red Devils signing’s almighty shadow.
Indeed, Arsenal got off to a blistering start against a Palace side who were mysteriously off the pace, going three goals up within 13 minutes. Then it was Lacazette’s time to shine – latching onto a superb backheel from Mesut Ozil and slotting past a helpless Wayne Hennessey.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg for a player who has undoubtedly endured a frustrating first six months at Arsenal, one where he’s been a mere side story rather than star signing, and one where he’s not even held down a guaranteed spot in Arsene Wenger’s starting Xi.
In addition to netting Arsenal’s fourth, the 16-cap striker took a further four efforts at goal and created two scoring chances for his team-mates without committing a single successful touch. But perhaps most impressively considering the criticisms of workrate that often come Arsenal’s way, and most tellingly of how they produced the right response to Sanchez’s departure on Saturday, the 26-year-old also weighed in with the joint-most tackles of any Gunners player.
In the post-Sanchez era, Lacazette will inevitably have to play a key part and that new-found energy in the final third could well be vital. The early signs suggest he’s up for the challenge of filling the void of arguably Arsenal’s biggest talent since the Invincibles.