Alan Smith on Alexandre Lacazette: I know only too well why it’s unfair to judge on strike rate

Alan Smith
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The interviewer asked if I was relieved to end my goal drought, having just scored against Liverpool in that week’s live TV game.

“Well,” I replied, “I’ll take it as a compliment if you think five games represent a drought. If you’re contributing to the team, I don’t think five games is actually that long.”

It wasn’t. And it still isn’t, despite the ceaseless noise surrounding every issue in the game today. Scoreless streaks, for example, get microscopically examined. There is nowhere to hide in this stats-driven age.

Alexandre Lacazette is getting it just now after failing to find the net in, like me, five starts, plus 12 minutes as a substitute at Goodison Park. All sorts of questions are being asked about his form and confidence ahead of a three-match run when top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be ­suspended.

Can the Frenchman step up in his mate’s absence? Is he in the right frame of mind to do the job?

Admittedly, it isn’t just about the last few games. Lacazette has notched just six all season. At this rate, he’ll fall a long way short of previous totals.

But as I said in that TV interview all those years ago, a run of goalless games isn’t so bad as long as you are offering something to the team.

And I think Lacazette is doing just that, as demonstrated by his clever assist for Aubameyang’s goal at Crystal Palace.

Arsenal’s no9 isn’t just a predator. He works hard off the ball and links the play very well. He shouldn’t purely be judged by his strike rate.

Blimey, I’m starting to get flashbacks here. Those very same sentiments were regularly applied to me — a centre-forward not averse to the odd dry spell.

For that reason alone, I’m inclined to keep faith in a player more than capable of rediscovering his touch in front of goal.

With young guns such as Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah acting as back-up, I’d fancy the senior man to respond fairly promptly, which might mean Sheffield United feeling the brunt.

Of course, a barren patch doesn’t matter so much if the team is winning, as my Arsenal side generally were at the time of that question. We went on to famously win the title in that 88/89 season.

Unfortunately, nothing remotely like that is going to happen this year for them.

In addition, Mikel Arteta’s team can’t yet claim to bear the same steely ­attitude instilled by George ­Graham. That will hopefully happen some time in the future once the new manager has built a side in his image.

When that comes to pass, the only droughts worth mentioning should come at the other end.

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