After seasons of Arsenal fans begging Arsene Wenger to sign another striker, the Frenchman finally satisfied the fans by signing Deportivo man Lucas Perez. His signing does give the Gunners some much-needed depth. Danny Welbeck has struggled with injuries in recent years and his move from Manchester United doesn’t look as good as it did two years back. Olivier Giroud is good, but it has been well established that he is not enough to lead Arsenal’s title charge. Theo Walcott has insisted he wants to play on the wings. Arsenal needed another striker.
Wenger first pursued Jamie Vardy, but the Leicester striker went on to sign a new contract at the King Power Stadium leaving Arsenal fans disappointed. In the end, Wenger went after Deportivo striker Lucas Perez, someone not many would have even heard of.
The Spaniard appeared to be on the verge of signing for Everton, but at the last minute, Arsenal successfully swooped in to meet his release clause of ‘ £17m and snatched the player away to north London.
Until last season, Perez hadn’t experienced a season worth being proud of, and one could say he has struggled enough to get a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world. He was a “highly rated youngster”, and at 18, he caught the eye of Atletico Madrid and spent two seasons playing for their ‘C’ team in the Tercera Division. The 27-year-old did reasonably well but couldn’t move up the ranks. He later had spells at Rayo Vallecano, Ukrainian sides Karpaty Lviv and Dynamo Kiev. It was a terrible period at Kiev, and he had to make a move to Greece with PAOK to have a spell where his real rise would begin finally.
He scored 10 goals and 15 assists in all competitions in his first season with the Greek outfit which led Deportivo to come sign him on loan. The move was made permanent in the summer of 2015, and he finished the following season as the club’s top scorer.
A switch from the attacking midfielder spot to one as a striker extracted the most out of his abilities. It was not only the first time that his goal tally was in double digits for a season but also only the second time that he played more than 2500 minutes a season. Clearly, his switch to the striker position allowed him to flourish and ensured the Spanish team had a striker who could regularly get among the goals. He scored 17 goals for the side and proved to be the Galician side’s talisman. Lucas also created 61 chances from open play last term; a stat only bettered by three other players in all of La Liga last term.
Reports claimed Leicester City were after his signature at the end of last season and comparisons to Jamie Vardy were drawn, for obvious reasons. Both these players are late bloomers, they are both agile, small and for whom speed is the principal armament.
This move is a calculated risk for Wenger, but one which could very well pay off. He may be a diamond in the rough but signs from last season make this move very promising. Whether he could do the trick immediately for Arsenal remains to be seen. What makes matter encouraging for the Gunners is that they haven’t lost a big star, so the risk of Perez not doing and making matters dire is little.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal line-up with Perez in the squad. Would he be the back-up for Giroud or will he line-up alongside him as we see Wenger experiment with two up-front. Could he somehow push Walcott to the bench and start out wide? Lucas is said to be just as comfortable playing on the flank as a left winger and has already played as a number 10 multiple times in his career.
While Lucas is expected to play as a number nine, competing with Olivier Giroud and ensuring there is depth and quality in the squad with the Gunners in four competitions, his versatility will prove crucial in a long and testing campaign.