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Laca, Morata and Lukaku: Brilliant in their own ways
During this crazy transfer window that just passed, one of the more intriguing narratives were how these three strikers would match up against each other. All three were bought for staggering prices (Laca being Arsenal’s most expensive signing, Morata being Chelsea’s most expensive signing + most expensive Spaniard and Lukaku being the most expensive signing between Premier League teams). Each came with their unique skills but lingering doubts. Lacazette was a proven goalscorer in France, but there were question marks about how quickly he would adapt to the rigours of the Premier League. Morata has created some unforgettable memories in the Champions League already in his young career but has gone through patchy form – once going 23 games without scoring for Juve. Lukaku has been a proven goalscorer in England for a while, but many were questioning whether he was ready to step up to the elite.
To say that all three have started their respective seasons brilliantly in an understatement. What has been impressive is how quickly they have eradicated the scrutiny regarding whether they belong at this level.
Out of the three, Morata has been the one put under the most pressure. There were always going to be comparisons between him and Diego Costa. Costa is a true champion of a striker, with a winning attitude that Chelsea fans loved. It couldn’t have helped that Morata began the season with a missed penalty against Arsenal in the Community Shield. In fact, many people were writing him off already at that point. He had only played 15 minutes until then! His response has been nothing sort of astonishing. Apart from forming a telepathic understanding with Azpilicueta, Morata’s performances and goals have showcased his variety of skills to the English public. Heading ability, crisp finishing, wonderful movement through the channels, great build-up play…it seems he has it all.
Lukaku was lambasted for his open goal miss against Madrid in the Super Cup, with many ignoring the fact that he still scored that game. He also had the unenviable task of replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with many questioning if it was an upgrade. His response, like Morata, has been astounding. Many people concentrate on his limitations without considering the various qualities he brings. With him in the team, United have a clear focal point – one guaranteed to bully central defenders throughout the 90 minutes. The amount of chances Lukaku gets (and sometimes misses, admittedly) is testament to his movement, pace and power. Already in his United career, he has taken the mantle of talisman along with Pogba. When he scores, United win. The fact that no one has really wondered when Ibra will be back says a lot about how well Lukaku has settled.
Lacazette has been the most precarious case out of the three, but impressive in his own way. He began his Arsenal career with a bang, scoring in his second touch in the EPL against Leicester. However, it took this brace against West Brom to prove to everyone that he has the ability to compete against these world-class strikers. This was because Wenger kept moving him in and out of the team, whereas Morata and Lukaku were shoehorned in almost immediately. It shows that he is yet to fully settle in the EPL, but his qualities are already apparent. All his goals have a sense of calm about them, and he displays a silky smooth touch that should see him become very successful for Arsenal. During this short period, he has already imprinted his mark on this team. His build-up play has been excellent, leading to Arsenal’s attack looking a lot more fluid with him in the starting XI. It wasn’t a coincidence that when Liverpool blitzed Arsenal, both Kola and Laca were on the bench.
What is most exciting about these three is that I only see them getting better, especially in the cases of Lacazette and Morata. Diego Costa was always more devastating when Eden Hazard was dovetailing with him, and you wouldn’t bet against Morata scoring more goals with Hazard’s dribbling power and the ability to take defenders out of the game. When Lacazette was signed, the trio of him, Ozil and Sanchez was supposed to be one of the deadliest attacks in the Prem. The trio hasn’t yet started together for a multitude of reasons, but you imagine Lacazette getting better and better once he acclimatizes and starts linking up with the other two.
What this does is make the race for the Golden Boot extremely exciting. Aguero and Kane have been banging them in as well, and it seems every top-six side (apart from Liverpool – although Mane was in scorching form before his ban) has a viable contender for the prize. Riveting stuff.
Nacho, Nacho man
You can have your Lacazettes, you can keep your Ozils and your Sanchez’s. Ramsay can be amazing on his day and so can Bellerin. I’m not sure what the point of Xhaka is or why Walcott still plays for Arsenal. I do like Kolasinac a lot but the most important Arsenal player for the past three seasons has been Nacho Monreal.
He always gives 100%, he has better control and technique than England’s best creative midfielders but with the bite and aggression of a proper defender. He reads the game better than anyone else at Arsenal and I bloomin love the guy.
To summarise, I dream of a team of Nachos.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Get in the box, Granit
Yes I know we won, but I really, really have a beef for anybody who is tall, has strong physical feature, able to fight for the ball but was NOT in the penalty box while corner was taken. In fact it boils me even more that the said personnel take them corners. Yes I’m pointing at you Mr. Granit Xhaka.
Seriously what the f**k? In the league that is known for its physical nature, you cannot shy away from its physical duties. Especially against any team managed by Mr. Tony Pulis. It makes matters worse when you know other midfielders are basically f*****g short and have zero chances to win aerial challenge in any corner, which in turns made our corners basically useless against most teams.
To kick a static ball unchallenged into a group of people is not that hard, seriously. Every footballer can do that. Need a special set of talent to kick the ball you say? Look Kieran Gibbs took corners for West Brom, and Ben Davies usually pings them in for Spurs. F**k you and your special set of talent.
And the peak stupidity came in the second half against West Brom. We got a freekick at the left side, of the box (nearly towards the touchline) and Xhaka even managed to do the two-man routine over there. Well I can understand if it was the middle which this two-man routine would confuse the GK a bit, but in this case the ball would be delivered from the left side anyway regardless who kicks it. Please get in the box next time Mr. Xhaka or I’m gonna lose my s***.
Syfq Amr, a bias Gooner
Yes it was a penalty, but…
So, I reckon that was a penalty and should probably have been given, but I think it’s more difficult a situation than most realise (although admittedly I did not watch the half time discussion of it on Sky). Let’s look at the possible points where you could give the penalty, and the potential issues with giving it at that point.
1 – Immediately after the challenge. The problem here is that if Rodriguez gets up and scores just after the whistle, and the penalty is missed, there will be complaints more bitter than the ones currently being made.
2 – After the ball hits the post. The problem here is that the ball falls straight to Livermore with an open goal, where he should score, so you have to let him have that shot. As above, if he slots it in as the whistle is being blown, complaints abound.
3 – After Livermore misses. The problem here is that there have been two decent chances, the second of which is arguably easier than a penalty. Difficult to say that no advantage has been given by this time.
Now, this may not have been the referee’s thought process, so could be totally irrelevant. It is a fairly believable series of decisions though. If playing advantage a line has to be drawn at some point. If Livermore hits the post and then another player misses another open goal, do West Brom still feel aggrieved?
Referees are often criticised for not playing advantage enough, but once you start playing advantage here it just becomes more and more difficult to give the penalty. So, I guess what I’m a actually saying is maybe it wasn’t a penalty.
Also, Tony, it wouldn’t be a red card and that rule was changed well over a year ago. Do keep up.
Ross, AFC London
Man United fan claiming bias
Today I’m sitting here in the living room with the curtains drawn watching replay after replay of that Mustafi challenge on Jay Rodriguez and asking myself, “how is that not a penalty?” And yesterday when Arsenal were awarded a penalty of their own, I promptly switched off the telly, went to the kitchen, and made myself a sandwich. Isn’t life good?
PS. Rather than say poor officiating, let’s call it what it is – biased officiating…
Why should Rodriguez have stayed down?
F365 wrote this in their Arsenal vs West Brom match report:
‘West Brom responded and should have been awarded a penalty on eight minutes when Jay Rodriguez was clearly brought down by Shkodran Mustafi down the left side of the area.Rodriguez, who in hindsight should have stayed grounded to boost his chances of winning the spot-kick, quickly got to his fee.’
This is a player who is being fair and not engaging in playacting to try and get a player sent off or something unlike so many other players. A penalty is a penalty and should be given. Is there a mechanism to at least inform referees about where they have made a mistake if not punish them for getting big decisions wrong consistently? Because it seems to me that there is a lot more inconsistency in the refereeing this year, which ruins the game. Or maybe it’s just me.
A Reasonable LFC Fan (Mane is going to be POTS)
Gareth, you beautiful boy
Wtf is Gareth Barry made from? He’s just broken the record for PL appearances and I swear the man doesn’t look a day over 30. Doctors hate him.
Evan (Thanks Bobby Madley) AFC
Harry Kane offside? Not in last 20 years
To all those people complaining that Harry Kane was offside in the 1st Spurs goal vs West Ham (and some suggesting the second too), this is not a new rule – the rule relating to ‘phases of play’ has been around for many years now and a goal is scored by it someone in each of Europe’s top leagues nearly every weekend. As someone rightly pointed out, Ruud van Nistelrooy was a master of this. The notion that this will suddenly bring to an end the offside trap or lead to a drastic change in defensive tactics is simply not right – this is not a new rule, and teams haven’t changed drastically so far…so why would they now? As for the idea that attacking teams will start doing this as a deliberate tactic: for a forward, being offside like this is generally not a good position as it means you are not an option to receive the ball.
Ultimately, this is the kind of thing that happens in football – you can add it to the list of my vs your team topics that include offsides favouring attackers, players waving imaginary cards, non-deliberate handballs, missed refereeing decisions, jumping tackles that get the ball, swinging elbows that don’t connect, contact on goalkeepers…all those things that when it happens to your team (and mine), you whine. When it goes in your favour, you keep quiet.
Love for Peter G
Just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying Peter G’s Team of the Week feature. I find it both entertaining and informative, which are not easy things to incorporate. For me it has already become as essential a read as the Mailbox, W&L etc, and I can think of no higher praise than that! Thanks PG, keep up the good work.
Andy G (if only having the same first letter of the surname meant similar writing prowess)