Time to get physical: Lacazette can be a Premier League star

It took Alexandre Lacazette just two minutes to announce himself to the Premier League, scoring on his Arsenal debut against Leicester at Emirates Stadium. The deft header from Mohamed Elneny’s cross provided a glimpse of what most supporters would have been expecting over the coming games from their record signing.

At a total of £52million, Lacazette represents the priciest outlay of any Arsenal purchase in their entire history – and with the huge price tag comes weighty expectations.

10/3 for Bate and Arsenal draw

The 26-year-old’s second goal for the Gunners came in a 3-0 win against Bournemouth and he should have arguably had a third in the recent defeat to Stoke where his goal was adjudged to be offside. Regardless of the small print, Lacazette’s positioning in the final third and ability to find the back of the net from a range of positions makes him a different proposition for Premier League defenders.

“Yes, I believe that he has adapted to the team play, to the way we want to play football,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. “He connects well with the other players, he’s disciplined, he works hard for the team. On the tactical and technical aspects I’m very pleased.

“He still needs to adapt to the physical aspects of the Premier League and that will take maybe a little bit of time.

“But overall on the other fronts there is no problem at all. I’m very happy.”

Danny Welbeck has been favoured by Wenger this season for his ability to attack the space when Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have the ball. His mutual understanding between the star players and physically imposing frame make him a difficult man to stop in full flow, and that is perhaps the main reason Lacazette has struggled to get a run of starts in the league this season.

Adapting to the physical element of the Premier League is the biggest challenge of Lacazette’s adaption period in England. Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, a fellow newcomer this season to English football, has four goals and two assists in his first six Premier League games – prompting many to question why the French striker hasn’t been able to hit the same heights so far after his electrifying debut.

Lacazette Wenger Quote

It’s clear that Morata and Lacazette are two very different players. Morata is much more of a target man and while he can hold the ball up fantastically, Lacazette’s strength lies in his link-up play and tendency to chase down opposition defenders rather than his physcial prowess.

Those skills are are a huge advantage for Arsenal who have found it hard to find a consistently clinical frontman since the days of Eduardo da Silva and Robin van Persie. But the fear he may be too ‘lightweight’ for England nevertheless persists.

Manchester United Jose Mourinho reportedly overlooked signing Lacazette due to doubts over his ‘big-game mentality’ and ‘suitability’ for the Premier League. In his opening games it has been clear that the biggest failing in the Frenchman’s game is that bulky central defenders are able to outmuscle him off the ball.

Ozil had a similar problem when he first arrived in England but reaped the rewards of extra gym work at London Colney, putting on a considerable amount of muscle. If Lacazette wants to contribute the kind of goal tally expected of him then he will need to show the dynamism required to adapt to the most physically demanding league in the world. Arsenal legend David Seaman is one individual still yet to be wholly convinced.

“It will be difficult for him to get used to the Premier League,” Seaman told Goal. “A lot of new signings find it difficult to settle because they don’t realise how fast and how physical it is, and how fast the games come round.

“Sometimes you’re playing two or three times a week. He will get used to it – from what I’ve seen he does look quality. People said he reminds them of Ian Wright, but he has to score a few more goals to remind me of him!”

Those Wright comparisons are an example of the high expectations many are pinning on Lacazette. This is the biggest move of his career and, for someone who has spent his entire career at Lyon, it provides a unique and somewhat daunting challenge in a league which exposes even the best players’ weaknesses very quickly.

Hector Bellerin Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal 09092017

“We have to give him time,” ex-Arsenal and France defender William Gallas told Goal. Gallas knows exactly how hard the transition to the Premier League can be from his successful spells with the Gunners and Chelsea, and pleaded for patience with his compatriot.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to change country, you have to speak another language. It’s not easy to settle very quick. I know in football everything is about results so if he doesn’t score many goals people will judge him straight away. We have to give him two years to see what he can do.”

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“What we know in the Premier League is very physical,” he said. “Every game you gave to be ready. It’s a question everybody needs to ask themselves, if Lacazette will be good for that league. I don’t know. In France he was a great, great player. He scored so many goals. Now he’s in the Premier League it will be a different league, a new challenge for him. We have to wish him all the best and to see if he will settle very well.”

Great players in France have not always hit it off in the Premier League. Radamel Falcao and Mario Balotelli are both considered ‘flops’ but their record in Ligue 1 shows that English clubs were right to take a punt on them. Whether Lacazette can become the man to grab 25 goals a season remains to be seen, but early signs suggest he has the majority all the tools necessary to succeed.

He has the touch, the work ethic, the technical ability and knows how to finish. The only thing missing from Lacazette’s game, that physical edge in the area, won’t take him long to improve on and perhaps those Wright comparisons will start to come to fruition as the season gets into full gear.

He cost £52m for a reason, and it will not be long before Arsenal’s record club signing starts to throw his weight around and show the Premier League what he is made of.


Chelsea or Man United won’t fear City, says Guardiola

Pep Guardiola does not think Manchester City’s rampaging recent form is likely to leave Premier League title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea quaking in their boots.

City romped to a 5-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, becoming the first English top-flight side since Blackburn Rovers in 1958-59 to score five or more goals in three consecutive matches.

Man City 10/11 to win PL

Liverpool and Watford have also been put to the sword by Guardiola’s men over recent weeks and Feyenoord were on the receiving end of a 4-0 beating in City’s Champions League opener.

After hosting Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, the Premier League leaders travel to Stamford Bridge next Saturday, with Antonio Conte’s men first tackling a tough European assignment at Atletico Madrid in midweek.

The defending champions were impressive 4-0 winners at Stoke City this weekend, while United remained level on points with City by beating Southampton 1-0.

Leroy Sane Raheem Sterling Manchester City

Asked whether City’s performances would strike fear into their opponents, Guardiola sharply replied: “Chelsea won 4-0 at Stoke City.

“And I think United have five clean sheets in a row [five out of six in the Premier League].

“It is such tough competition. All the big teams are strong.”

Competition is similarly strong within Guardiola’s squad, especially when it comes to the forward positions.

Raheem Sterling’s brace against Crystal Palace took him to five for the season, the same amount plundered by Leroy Sane in all competitions.

Sane made only his second Premier League start of the campaign after Guardiola revealed poor form in pre-season left the Germany winger lagging behind his team-mates and City’s other offensive talents are aware they cannot afford similar slips.

“It’s not necessary for me to tell them, they know that,” Guardiola said. “They feel their team-mates beside them and go ‘wow, he is good’.

Pep Guardiola Manchester City

“That is the best way. You cannot play the same players every three days for 11 months. They have to play well. If you want to win, it has to be the best performance.

“Everybody has to push the other one.”

City won their first six Premier League matches last season before a defeat at Tottenham began a wobble from which their title bid never recovered.

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Guardiola feels his squad is in better shape this time around but still has ample room for improvement.

“When you analyse the numbers, no regrets, it’s all good,” he added.

“But the way we play, we can improve in many, many things and many concepts. That’s what is next.”


Fassone slams AC Milan after loss: ‘These defeats should not be considered as routine’

AC Milan CEO Marco Fassone launched a scathing criticism of the team following Sunday’s shock defeat at Sampdoria, insisting the Italian giants should not be losing to “weaker” teams.

It was a day to forget for head coach Vincenzo Montella and Milan, who were well below their best in a 2-0 loss away from home in Serie A.

Milan 7/1 to win Europa League

Duvan Zapata and substitute Ricky Alvarez condemned Milan to their second loss of the season, having been humbled 4-1 by Lazio earlier in September.

After a drastic and expensive overhaul of the squad during the off-season, which saw the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Lucas Biglia, Andre Silva and Hakan Calhanoglu arrive at San Siro among others, Fassone said he expects much more, with Milan already six points behind reigning champions Juventus and Napoli.

“Confidence does not come from one day to the next, but from results,” Fassone said. “There should have been confidence but we didn’t see it on the pitch. I hope it comes soon.

“I don’t know whether it’s a question of playing against a good team. I don’t think Samp are of our level, [Marco] Giampaolo has done very well.

“I congratulate him, but Milan are stronger than Samp and need to approach the match in a different way.

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“We’ve had some alarm bells, we are angry and I have come to talk because these defeats should not be considered as routine. Milan should not lose against opponents considered weaker than ourselves.”

Fassone added: “After this defeat, Montella and [sporting director Massimiliano] Mirabelli will review the tactics and technical aspects of the team. From my point of view, as an outsider, the thing that I disliked the most was the team spirit shown by AC Milan during the first 60 minutes of the game.

“This is not AC Milan’s spirit. There is a simple solution to this: we need to face each other and understand together that we are AC Milan, that we are wearing an important jersey.”


MLS Review: Sporting KC, Portland keep pressure on

Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers kept the pressure on in the MLS Western Conference, while Atlanta United claimed another win.

Goals from Daniel Salloi and Diego Rubio helped Sporting KC to a 2-1 home victory against the LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Salloi poked in the opener in the 18th minute before Rubio tapped in a Seth Sinovic pass in the first half for Peter Vermes’ men.

Romain Alessandrini pulled a goal back for Galaxy but they were unable to find another at Children’s Mercy Park.

Sporting KC is third in the Western Conference, a point adrift of the first-place Vancouver Whitecaps.

Sitting second is Portland, which recorded a 3-0 win over a nine-man Orlando City side.

Diego Valeri opened the scoring from the penalty spot to extend his MLS-record scoring streak to nine matches.

Darren Mattocks doubled the lead before Jonathan Spector was sent off for Orlando early in the second half.

Valeri struck again prior to the hour mark and substitute PC also saw red for Orlando.

Meanwhile, Atlanta extended its unbeaten run to six matches with a 2-0 win at home over the Montreal Impact behind strikes from Hector Villalba and Jeff Larentowicz.

With Sunday’s results, New York City FC became the second team to clinch a playoff slot after Toronto FC secured its spot earlier this month.


Sheffield Wednesday v Sheffield United Betting: Owls to edge bitter rivals in goal-laden derby

Hillsborough will host the first Sheffield derby in more than five years when Sheffield Wednesday face Sheffield United on Sunday afternoon.

This fixture has always been fiercely competitive and bragging rights have been dished out in equal measure, for, remarkably, both sides have won 48 of the 140 matches contested between the teams, with the remaining 44 fixtures ending all square.

It is the Owls, though, who have had the upper hand in the last decade, with Sheffield United winning just one of the last eight contests between these bitter city rivals.

Sheffield United Brentford

The Blades, back in the Championship following their League One title triumph last term, have enjoyed a solid start to life in the second tier, having picked up 15 points from their first eight games – two more than Wednesday have collected so far this season.

Chris Wilder’s charges can be backed at 53/20 (3.65) with Betsafe to extend their advantage over Wednesday to five points with victory at Hillsborough, while the Owls are chalked up as a 53/50 (2.06) chance to leapfrog United in the Championship standings by beating the Blades; Betsafe go 49/20 (3.45) that honours remain even at the end of a hard-fought 90 minutes in the Steel City derby.

There have been goals scored at both ends in eight of Wednesday’s last nine matches in all competitions and Betsafe go 87/100 (1.87) that the trend continues in this clash, while the same firm go 113/100 (2.13) that there are more than two goals in the game – a selection that would have landed in both of Wednesday’s last two matches at Hillsborough.

Sheffield United Wednesday graphic

The Owls are undefeated on their own patch so far this season and Carlos Carvalhal’s men, who have reached the play-offs in both of the last two seasons, will have high hopes of making home advantage count against the Blades.

Sheffield United, however, will have few fears about crossing the city, for Wilder’s team have won their last two Championship tussles on their travels – against Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers respectively.

Both teams will be fired up for what promises to be a full-blooded derby and Wednesday are decent value at 53/50 (2.06) to claim bragging rights against the Blades; the Owls’ defensive deficiencies, however, are a cause for concern and better value may lie in backing Carvalhal’s side to win a match in which both teams are on target.

Betsafe’s generous 71/20 (4.55) quote, therefore, for Wednesday to win and both teams to score could offer good value for punters ahead of Sunday’s all-Sheffield showdown.

Both teams to score and Sheffield Wednesday to win at 71/20 (4.55) for a 1pt stake with Betsafe

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