Aubameyang's arrival could pull Lacazette out of his shell at Arsenal
It seems big money strikers are like London buses at Arsenal. You wait forever for one to show up, then two come along at once. Having broken their club record to sign Alexandre Lacazette last summer, Arsenal have paid an even higher fee to secure Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just six months on. The acquisition has been lauded as a major coup for Arsenal, who badly needed some star quality, and indeed goalscoring potential, to compensate for the loss of Alexis Sanchez. However, the deal is likely to spell trouble for Lacazette-after struggling to acclimatise to English football, he's now likely to find himself out of the side.
It's not entirely his own fault. Ever since he arrived at the Emirates Stadium, Lacazette has cut something of a frustrated figure. His best asset is his intelligent movement, but all too often Arsenal's midfield have ignored his early runs, instead focusing on their patient (although altogether too passive) approach play. When chances have come his way, he's generally finished well. However, his productivity has dipped alarmingly of late. Lacazette has scored just one goal in his last 11 appearances.
A tally of nine goals might make him Arsenal's top goalscorer this season, but Arsene Wenger probably expected more from the man who became the most expensive player in the club's history just a few months ago.
Lacazette has struggled to impose himself on games. Wenger has sought to protect him in the first half of the season, regularly withdrawing him around the 70 minute mark and resting him in the Europa League. Those moves were presumably intended to keep Lacazette fresh, but they've had the unanticipated side-effect of diminishing his confidence.
On Tuesday night, the France international took to the field against Swansea knowing that the signing of Aubameyang was probably imminent. He needed a big performance to show Wenger his enduring value to the team. Instead, he turned in one of his worst Arsenal displays to date. Lacazette looked like he was running through molasses -- when the pressure was on, he went into his shell.
Going into a shell is not something you could ever say of Aubameyang. The Gabon international certainly has the force of personality to take on the mantle as Arsenal's starting centre-forward. That much is demonstrated by his willingness to wear the No. 14 shirt made iconic by Thierry Henry. And crucially he also has the physicality to thrive in English football.
Asked about the new man's best attributes, Wenger spoke glowingly of his athletic ability: "His huge physical capacity will be important in the Premier League because the physical level is very high." Therein lies an indication as to why Wenger has chosen to move for another striker. It seems the Arsenal manager harbours doubts about Lacazette's ability to physically assert himself. Aubameyang is quicker, taller, stronger and seemingly more confident.
He's not quite abandoning Lacazette yet. Aubameyang's cup-tie means the Frenchman will be required to play in the Europa League, which is arguably the most important competition remaining in Arsenal's season. The departure of Olivier Giroud also ensures he'll get plenty of time off the bench -- Arsenal fans will get to see what he can do in the final 20 minutes of a game after all.
There may well be occasions when Wenger finds a way to crowbar both players into the team. Lacazette can play as an emergency winger, if required. However, it's difficult to envisage Arsenal lining up with a pure front two. They haven't done so since a short-lived partnership between Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.
Aubameyang's arrival represents a huge challenge to Lacazette. If he is to avoid being branded a flop, he must respond to it far better than he did at the Liberty Stadium. He's now not only battling to adapt, he's battling for a place in the team.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.