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How Unai Emery And Alexandre Lacazette Banished Arsenal’s Curse Of The No.9

Alexandre Lacazette has scored five goals in all competitions this season (Picture: Getty)
For the first time since 1999 Arsenal fans have a No.9 they can be genuinely be proud of. It’s taken the best part of two decades, eight different incumbents and a change in manager, but in Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal finally have a man worthy of mentioning in the same breath as Alan Smith, Paul Merson and Nicholas Anelka.
Having arrived at the Emirates last summer, you could have been forgiven in thinking Lacazette was another in that long line of imposters after his hit and miss first season (more on the Podolski end of the scale rather than Park Chu-young), but after a fairly unconvincing start the Frenchman is now a fixture on Unai Emery’s ever-changing teamsheet.
Anyone that follows Arsenal will tell you how refreshing it has been to see the existing, status quo squad dynamics – that had always been mind-numbingly adhered to during the latter stages of the Wenger era – thrown out the window under Unai Emery.
Arsenal’s Premier League No.9s
Lucas Perez
Lucas Podolski
Park Chu-Young
Jose Antonio Reyes
Davor Suker
Nicolas Anelka
Paul Merson
Alan Smith
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived at Arsenal in January it felt like Lacazette’s shot at being Arsenal’s main forward was over before it had even begun.
The Gunners would only rarely operate with two up top meaning the more expensive marquee arrival, Aubameyang, would naturally take precedence at the top of the order.
Thankfully, Emery does not operate this way. Arsenal is now a meritocracy under the Spaniard and Lacazette is thriving because of it. Aubameyang or Mesut Ozil will not keep their place in the team with no regard of context. Any one of Aaron Ramsey, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Alex Iwobi could be involved from game to game – it’s already clear that Emery does not have any ‘favourites’.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have formed a devastating partnership at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)
The air of dependency on Ozil (and Alexis Sanchez before him) which Arsenal have suffered from in recent years skewed any sense of team structure Wenger had tried to implement.
As a result, players like Lacazette had no consistency to work with. Arsenal at their recent best under Wenger produced and replicated attacking patterns on a regular basis, any remnants of that style (bar the odd exception) were all but gone in Lacazette’s first season.
He didn’t know whether he was coming or going as the team unravelled around him. Emery arrived to offer Lacazette the hope he might rediscover that goalscoring groove. New methods, new ideas, a new start. And then he spent the summer watching his French compatriots win a World Cup in Russia before finding out he would spend the first four games of the season on the bench.
Nicolas Anelka was Arsenal last prolific Premier League No.9 (Picture: Allsport)
To his credit, there were no murmurs of discontent, no thinly-veiled social media posts and no suggestion he felt he was entitled to a place in the side. Instead he showed continued commitment in training and, more importantly, he produced game-changing impact when afforded minutes.
He saved Arsenal’s blushes away at Cardiff and secured a win against Everton with a pair of clinical finishes reminiscent of his best moments at Lyon, all the while offering the cohesion in Emery’s build-up which was desperately missing in his absence. And to Emery’s credit, he noticed.
Aubameyang was made to accommodate Lacazette with a switch to the left flank, rather than they other way around, and Arsenal have not looked back. The Gunners have tallied up nine wins on the bounce in all competitions and will be confident of number ten when they visit Leicester City on Monday night with a fit and firing No.9 they can count on.

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