Strike partnerships are dead.
Long live strike partnerships.
Arsenal’s focus may have switched to the Europa League but their opening goal against Newcastle hints at a possible tactical overhaul next season.
Alexandre Lacazette converted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross in the 14th minute to give the Gunners the lead.
The move started when Shokdran Mustafi clipped a long ball over the top for Arsenal’s Gabonese forward to control.
Aubameyang then hooked the ball to the back post for Lacazette to volley home on the slide.
It’s easy to dismiss this as Newcastle failing to deal with a long ball but Arsene Wenger will have noted the benefits of having two strikers on the pitch.
Fans have been calling for the two prolific goalscorers to start together and the nature of the goal is evidence of a repeatable tactic.
Aubameyang’s pace means opponents will be vulnerable to balls over the top and in behind.
Pace is the hardest attribute to defend against and the former Bosrussia Dortmund man has it in abundance.
This outlet means Arsenal have a threatening alternative to patient build-up — a feature of their play ever since Wenger took charge.
While Lacazette is best utilised as a poacher who operates between the width of the posts.
Had Aubameyang been playing up top on his own, it’s unlikely any of his team-mates would have been advanced enough to meet his early cross.
Defenders hate crosses into the box when they’re facing their own goal.
This is just one of many benefits when playing two strikers.
Earlier this season, the Frenchman spent much of the game drifting wide or dropping deep to contribute to Arsenal’s build-up play.
While he certainly has the technical skills to succeed in such a role, he scored 20+ league goals for Lyon three seasons in a row as as instinctive finisher.
Set the team up so he’s on the end of most attacks and allow him the luxury of shooting on sight (a la Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo) and his powerful finishing will win you games.
If Wenger (or whoever is in charge next season) can construct a system where Mesut Ozil has two throughball options every time he has space in the opponent’s half, Aubameyang and Lacazette will receive more than enough service.
Jack Wilshere and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are also more than capable of turning defences around.
Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp’s partnership was a key feature of the Invincibles’ dominance in 2003/04.
Perhaps it’s time Arsenal committed to two strikers on a regular basis once again?