Arsene Wenger admits physical nature of English football has taken £52 million striker Alexandre Lacazette by surprise

Sam Dean
The Telegraph
Alexandre Lacazette is still adjusting to the Premier League - Action Images via Reuters
Alexandre Lacazette is still adjusting to the Premier League - Action Images via Reuters

Arsene Wenger thinks that struggling Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette is still adjusting to the “surprise” of life in the Premier League after his £52 million move from Lyon in the summer.

The Arsenal manager said Lacazette must still adapt to the “absolutely massive” physical pressure that is placed on strikers in English football, adding that the first six months away from home are the most difficult for players.

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Lacazette, who had spent his entire life in Lyon, has gone nearly 10 hours without a goal in all competitions for Arsenal and has not scored in eight consecutive games.

His struggles have prompted comparisons with Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who also looks devoid of confidence, and Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, whose form has tailed off dramatically after an impressive start to the campaign.

“It is always a surprise for the players,” said Wenger. “You accelerate and play more and the body needs to get used to it, the mind as well. It’s a difficult period, the first year, because the family comes over and it’s a bit less football-orientated.”

Wenger has spoken previously of the unique mentality of players who have been born and raised in Lyon, pointing out that players developed there often stay at home. The move to London will therefore have been a doubly significant change for Lacazette, who has scored eight goals in 28 games this season for club and country.

<span>Alexandre Lacazette with <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/antoine-griezmann/" data-ylk="slk:Antoine Griezmann">Antoine Griezmann</a> (left) at NBA London</span> <span>Credit: WIREIMAGE </span>
Alexandre Lacazette with Antoine Griezmann (left) at NBA London Credit: WIREIMAGE

“But you get used to it and he has played many games until now and I would say that the physical pressure on the strikers here in England has become absolutely massive,” Wenger said. “It’s normal. Morata, like Lacazette, he fights. But in England you play against teams who are organised and can play physically with 90 minutes intensity. The defenders have become much quicker than before. They are all athletes now at the back.

“What he [Lacazette] has worked on is to cope with the intensity of the challenges. In France, if you go down it’s a free-kick. In England, you go down and it’s no free-kick. That is much more difficult for a striker to get used to. This guy is used to scoring 30 goals per year so at the moment, even if he says no, I am sure he is frustrated.”

Arsenal travel to Bournemouth on Sunday hopeful that Jack Wilshere will be fit to play after picking up a knock during last week’s League Cup draw with Chelsea. Wilshere spent last season on loan at Bournemouth, and Wenger said he is grateful to their manager, Eddie Howe, for his management of the midfielder. “It was good for him to play a whole season,” Wenger said. “Overall I think the question mark over Jack is, is he capable of playing 30 games per year. Many questioned that, even on the medical side. I believe that for his confidence, that was absolutely vital.”

Wenger also said he was “reluctant” to embrace the so-called “Rooney Rule”, which the FA has said it will apply to appointing coaches. Under the initiative, the FA has pledged to interview at least one candidate from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background for future roles.

“I am a bit reluctant on that,” Wenger said. “I like the fact that everybody has a chance no matter where he is from – that’s absolutely fantastic. Should we have to force it? That proposes some questions. I think it should be natural.

“If it’s not natural, maybe we have to implement it, yes. I am not against it if it is really a problem, but normally it should just be all on merit.”

When it was suggested that some BAME managers may not feel that candidates are being appointed on merit, Wenger added: “Maybe. If that is not right then they have a point. And if they feel that, we have to check if it is true. I am absolutely against any discrimination. That’s why I say it should be on merit no matter where you are from and no matter who you are.”

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