I planned on writing an article this week about why I would never take Harry Kane with the first overall pick in a Togga draft, but Alexandre Lacazette's move from Lyon to Arsenal temporarily moved me off that topic. No, it's not because I happen to be an Arsenal supporter, it's more that I've gotten some flack for being relatively pessimistic on Lacazette, who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
So, why would I be down on a player who scored 28 goals on only 84 shots last year? Let's dive in.
Lacazette's final stat line from the 2016/17 season is very impressive, as his 28 goals trailed only Edinson Cavani for the golden boot. And maybe Lacazette was actually better than Cavani because he only needed 84 shots to score 28 goals while Cavani needed 144 to score 35. Lacazette's 33.3 percent shot conversion rate looks very impressive, as it easily outdoes Cavani's (24.3%), Lionel Messi's (20.7%), Luis Suarez's (24.2%), Cristiano Ronaldo's (15.4%), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's (26.7%), Robert Lewandowski (21.0%), Gonzalo Higuain's (17.9%), Antoine Griezmann's (18.4%), Kane's (26.4%), Romelu Lukaku's (22.7%), Diego Costa's (18.0%), Sergio Aguero's (18.0%) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's (14.8%), among others.
The immediate caveat, which is rarely mentioned, is that 10 of Lacazette's 28 goals last season came on 12 penalty attempts (his two unsuccessful ones were saved, not missed). His 10 penalty goals were more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues and contributed greatly to his excellent shot conversion rate. Yes, every goal counts, but expecting Lacazette to come close to that number again ignores that he converted two of three the prior year. Stripping out the penalties, Lacazette scored 18 goals on 72 shots, a conversion rate of 25.0 percent; still a decent rate, but not nearly as elite and showy as the one that includes the kicks from the spot.
Additionally, Lacazette's high conversion rate is a result of not being a high-volume shooter. Among players who scored at least 20 goals last season (15+ for the Premier League), plus a few cherry-picked others, it's obvious that Lacazette trails considerably in the shot column.
Shots aren't everything, of course, though it's really hard to score without taking them. Other than having the fifth-fewest shots on the list, Lacazette's numbers don't look terrible, especially his rate of one goal every 86.0 minutes, which is better than the Golden Boot winners from the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A.
However, if we adjust the list to show what these same players did in open play, we see a different picture:
Instead of scoring a goal every 86.0 minutes, Lacazette drops to one every 133.78, which is still better than Eden Hazard
and Cristiano Ronaldo
, but it's significantly worse than the Golden Boot winners referenced just above.
Lacazette could take penalties for Arsenal, though it mostly depends on whether Alexis Sanchez
is still around. If so, it's possible Alexis keeps the role until he misses, which obviously eats into some of Lacazette's opportunities. However, even if Lacazette does take over on penalties, it's unlikely they draw even half as many as the 14 Lyon did last season (Nabil Fekir
took and converted both of the spot kicks when Lacazette was out). Is it possible? Of course. Likely? I don't believe so.
So what is a realistic goal expectation for Lacazette? It's extremely tough to project without knowing whether Alexis is still on the team (I'm pretty confident Mesut Ozil
isn't going anywhere this summer), but if Alexis stays, I think a realistic expectation for Lacazette is somewhere around 14-to-16 goals. He's never played in England and has never been on a professional soccer team not named "Lyon." A vast majority of players, and especially goal scorers, come into the Premier League and struggle to adapt quickly, whether it's the style of play or just that everyone speaks with a different accent. And while some could argue that Alexis leaving would open up more opportunities for Lacazette, I'd argue there won't be as much space, so sign me up for a goal projection in the 12-to-14 range. Not vastly different, but still lower.
This isn't at all to say I think Arsenal aren't better with Lacazette in the squad. Of course they are. He's a vast improvement over Olivier Giroud
, Danny Welbeck
and Lucas Perez
, and whether he scores 10 or 15 goals, Arsenal will be better. But for fantasy purposes, I don't care how good Arsenal are, I care how many fantasy points Lacazette scores, and with talk that he could easily score more than 20 goals in his first season in England, I'll take the under.