Arsenal boss Unai Emery drew the ire of the Emirates Stadium crowd on New Year’s Day with his decision to substitute off goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette in the 75th minute, despite the Frenchman having been one of the Gunners’ best performers up to that point.
As the No. 9 walked off to be replaced by Aaron Ramsey, boos rang out amongst some sections of the home support, intended to convey the fans’ dismay with Emery’s decision. Lacazette himself responded in admirable fashion, making gestures urging the fans to get behind the team.
Lacazette certainly played well against Claudio Ranieri’s struggling Fulham side, and ended his wait for a Premier League goal – that stretched back to December 2nd’s thumping of Tottenham Hotspur – with a well-taken finish in the 55th minute.
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He came off with the north London club 2-1 up, courtesy of his goal, despite Aboubakar Kamara having pulled one back for the Cottagers.
Within minutes, Emery’s decision was justified, as Lacazette’s replacement, Ramsey, restored the Gunners’ two-goal cushion. Lacazette’s fellow striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, added a fourth late on.
Ultimately, Lacazette’s withdrawal didn’t cost Arsenal, and actually, it made sense at the time too. Although the 16-cap France international undoubtedly played well, and his aggression and attacking instincts were causing Fulham problems, other aspects of his game could have played his team into trouble.
Lacazette did a lot well. He recorded three shots on target and scored a vital goal. Despite not being able to record a key pass, he was also a creative force for the Gunners, constantly seeking to break down the Fulham defence.
However, Lacazette’s desire to attack had its down sides. The striker was caught offside on three occasions, and was dispossessed by a Fulham player five times – in both aspects, more often than any other player on the pitch.
What’s more, his pass accuracy rating of 66.7% made him something of a liability on the ball. These factors all combined to make Lacazette guilty of a number of turnovers in possession. At the time of his removal, Arsenal were hanging onto a slender, one-goal lead. Looking after possession was a priority for Arsenal, therefore the move to introduce Ramsey was a wise one.