Alexandre Lacazette set to sign for Arsenal but how have other French strikers fared in the Premier League?

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  • Arsenal are closing in on a club-record deal to sign Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette.

    The Gunners had a bid initially rejected by the Ligue 1 side last month but the two clubs are nearing an agreement with confirmation expected to come in the next couple of days.

    Lacazette’s move will see the 26-year-old join a lengthy list of French strikers who have made the switch to England.

    We take a look at three fellow Frenchmen who were a hit in the Premier League and three who were a miss.


    THIERRY HENRY: Arsenal 1999-2007 & 2012 – £11 million

    Arsenal’s greatest player and undoubtedly the best Frenchman to have graced the Premier League, Thierry Henry’s £11million move from Juventus in 1999 and subsequent switch from out wide to up front was one of Arsene Wenger’s finest managerial judgments.

    He is also a testament to the benefits of patience. His early formative in north London were disappointing as he contended with a striking berth which, while natural to him at youth level had become unnatural having switched to the wing at Monaco and Juve.

    He arrived short of confidence but finished the 1999/2000 season virtually unplayable with his touch, technique, pace, power and lethal finishing coming to hallmark a period of perennial success for the Gunners.

    Wenger had transformed Henry from an erratic winger to an unstoppable striker and one of the world’s best.

    The 2000 iteration of Henry is the Henry Arsenal fans came to love for another seven seasons as he tasted Premier League and FA Cup glory twice, spearheading the iconic “Invincibles” side of 2003/04 while he eventually surpassed Ian Wright to become the club’s all-time top scorer with 175 goals.

    He left the Emirates Stadium for Barcelona in 2007 but made an emotional return on a two-month loan in 2012, scoring on his second debut for the club in a FA Cup tie against Leeds.

    A player capable of individual genius within team framework, he was a dream for both Wenger and Arsenal supporters.

    Thierry Henry celebrates scoring against Leeds in the FA Cup in 2012

    ERIC CANTONA: Manchester United 1992-1997 – £1.2 million

    Iconic and idolised, Eric Cantona was adored by Manchester United fans and loathed by the opposition but he is arguably the most influential player of the Premier League era.

    His signing from Leeds United in 1992 was the single most significant factor in Sir Alex Ferguson’s formation of English football’s most dominant force and it happened almost by accident.

    Leeds had contacted United to enquire about the availability of full-back Denis Irwin, who Ferguson said was not for sale but jokingly suggested he might swap for Cantona.

    Irwin remained but a £1.2million deal was struck for Cantona and the rest is history. An ebullient character, King Eric trademarked the turned up collar and added prestige to the symbolic No7 shirt with performances of equal flair.

    He illuminated Old Trafford and as United’s heartbeat in the 1990s the Red Devils won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. In his best goalscoring season he plundered 25 goals in 49 games and he was awarded the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1993-94 before following that up with the FWA Footballer of the Year award in 1995-96.

    His shock retirement at just 30 after the triumphant 1996/97 season shook United and English football to its core but Cantona had already left an indelible mark and to this day regularly features among top five greatest ever Red Devils.

    Eric Cantona’s iconic chip against Sunderland in 1996

    NICOLAS ANELKA: Arsenal 1997-1999 – £500,000, Liverpool 2001-2002 – on loan, Manchester City 2002-2005 – £13million, Bolton 2006-2008 – £8million, Chelsea 2008-2012 – £15million & West Brom 2013-14 – on a free transfer

    As you can see from the list of Premier League clubs he’s turned out for, Nicolas Anelka wasn’t a particularly loyal striker but he was lethal.

    With the nickname “Le Sulk” it’s not all that surprising he’s racked up a lengthy CV but when he arrived at Arsenal as a precocious 17 year old he soon set the Premier League alight.

    He became integral as the Gunners claimed a domestic double in the 1997/98 season and was named the PFA Young Player of the year the following season.

    Then he left. Anelka fell out with the club and fans over Real Madrid’s approach and he subsequently joined the Spanish giants in a £22.3million deal.

    Predictably, he returned to the Premier League for a short-term loan spell with Liverpool, via PSG after outstaying his welcome in both Madrid and Paris, and while he added a touch of quality boss Gerard Houllier opted against making the deal permanent.

    He opted to sign El Hadji Diouf, which worked out so well for the Reds, and Anelka instead signed by Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City for a then club-record fee of £13million.

    Anelka top scored for City in both of his campaigns for the club but was on the move again, this time to Fenerbahce.

    In 2006 he was back in England after signing a four-year deal with Bolton and he headed their goalscoring charts with 11 for the 2006/07 season before pushing through a move to Chelsea in the 2008 January window in the search for Champions League football.

    It was at Stamford Bridge Anelka would find some serenity and crucially, success. He won two FA Cups and one Premier League title and finished as the league’s top scorer in 2008/09 with 19 goals.

    The Blues were his longest employers but after a four-year stay he handed in a transfer request late in 2012 and boss Andre Villas-Boas allowed him to leave for Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua in January.

    His final stop in England was tarnished by controversy as he was sacked by West Brom after scoring against West Ham and performing the “quenelle gesture”. He left in September 2014 for the Indian Super League, retiring from professional football after a year with Mumbai City.

    Nicolas Anelka celebrates scoring for Chelsea in 2010


    STEPHANE GUIVARC’H: Newcastle 1998 – £3.5million

    The Frenchman is a regular feature on the list of the Premier League’s worst ever strikers and while his time in England was short, it was anything but sweet.

    Kenny Dalglish won the race to sign Guivarc’h from Ligue 1 side Auxerre in the summer of 1998 after he played his part in France’s victorious World Cup campaign.

    He was a World Cup winner and had just finished the second straight season as Ligue 1’s top scorer but the move to the north east turned out to be a disaster.

    Guivarc’h’s Toon career got off to a flyer when he scored on debut in a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool.

    But when Dalglish quit it was clear early on his successor Ruud Gullit wasn’t a fan.

    “After two games Kenny Dalglish, who had signed me and wanted me to play alongside Alan Shearer, quit. Ruud Gullit arrived and immediately stuck me in a cupboard out of the way,” he said.

    He played four games in total before being shifted to Rangers.

    Stephane Guivarc’h in action for Newcastle in 1996

    LILIAN LASLANDES: Sunderland 2001-2003 – £3.6million

    Signed as a like-for-like replacement for club icon and Kevin Phillips’ partner-in-crime Niall Quinn, the striker soon became a large white elephant for manager Peter Reid, or should we maybe say ‘white donkey’.

    It soon became clear the only similarities between Laslandes and Quinn were the fact they were both tall.

    Not that Quinn was quick by any imagination, but the Frenchman lacked anything resembling pace or work rate with a first touch that made young children cry.

    Swapping Bordeaux for Sunderland didn’t prove a particularly wise lifestyle choice in terms of his personal happiness, either.

    He lasted just 12 scoreless and painful league games before Reid had enough and shipped him off to Cologne and then Bastia with the £3.6m fee (then a reasonable amount of money) and two years worth of wages hanging over him.

    Lilian Laslandes in action for Sunderland during a pre-season friendly

    DJIBRIL CISSE: Liverpool 2004-2007 – £14million, Sunderland 2008-2009 – on loan & Queens Park Rangers 2012-2013 – £4million

    Liverpool supporters may cry sacrilege at Cisse’s inclusion but despite his cult-hero status at Anfield, the French forward was ultimately a flop in the Premier League.

    He arrived for a then club-record fee of £14million in the wake of Gerard Houllier’s sacking with a big reputation after a drawn out two-year pursuit and a record of 70 goals in 128 games for Auxerre.

    His pace and power meant the France international was viewed as a prize capture and the hope was that he could score 20 goals a season as the Reds looked to launch a title assault having barely secured a Champions League spot in the 2003/04 season.

    But the hype and expectation created by the two-year chase meant he failed to make the kind of impression new boss Rafa Benitez needed.

    Liverpool’s style was to play over the opposition if they couldn’t play through them and in theory it should have suited Cisse’s pace but he infuriatingly struggled to keep himself onside.

    In his defence, Cisse’s first season was curtailed by a freak leg break against Blackburn just 19 games into his career and he did remarkably make a return at the back end of the campaign, earning his cult status by scoring a penalty in the Miracle of Istanbul.

    But the following season he was uncomfortably deployed on the right-side and then mainly utilised from the bench, though he did have another career highlight after scoring the opener in the FA Cup final triumph over West Ham.

    His Liverpool career came to a close when he joined Marseille on loan before making the deal permanent. He headed back to England on loan spell with Sunderland and after a good start he was once again restricted to roles from the bench.

    Poor performances and a dreadful work ethic saw him flop at QPR having moved from Lazio and he spent much of his time in London residing in a familiar place – the bench.

    A career which promised so much ultimately failed to live up to the noise.

    Liverpool’s Djibril Cisse is taken off after breaking his leg at Blackburn in 2004