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Praveen’s latest “The Arsenal Annals” column.
It has been a rather strange season for Arsenal so far.
With the club initially expected to prioritize the signing of a world-class striker in the summer, injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista ensured Arsene Wenger and co. were forced to bring in a central defender before negotiating any deal for a centre-forward.
However, the Gunners went on to announce Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez on the same day.
Whilst the former Everton defender found his way into the starting line-up rather easily and deservedly so, the £17.1 million import from Spain has been forced to wait for his chances at his new club.
His first start in an Arsenal shirt – against Southampton – saw him spend the night isolated as he struggled to fit into the Arsenal team that predominantly tried to walk the ball into the net.
With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain attempting to play off him as they do when Olivier Giroud plays ahead of them, he came across as a fish out of water.
However, it should be noted that Arsenal as a team were experimenting a system that was still in its infancy.
A three-winger front three was pencilled in to be as big a disaster as the Mikel Arteta-Santi Cazorla double pivot, but courtesy of the fluidity exhibited by Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez and a resurgent Walcott, the new system has produced results only Wenger may have foreseen.
Arsenal’s three-goal victory over Chelsea, a side they have not defeated since October 2011, bears testimony to how successful Wenger’s brainchild has been so far.
In theory, the 28-year-old striker should perfectly fit into the new system, banging in goals more frequently than he did during his final season at Deportivo la Coruna – he scored 19 goals and provided 11 assists in 37 competitive starts.
Luckily, his performance against Nottingham Forest in the English Football League Cup more than made up for his underwhelming debut as he was directly involved in three of Arsenal’s four goals.
His second goal – after converting from the spot to net his first Arsenal goal – against Forest clearly reeked of everything the N5 club had been desperately lacking and what the Emirates Stadium faithful had been clamouring for.
Robbing Michael Mancienne through sheer strength and pace before rounding Vladimir Stoijkovic for Arsenal’s third, he proved he boasted the attributes that would definitely give the Arsenal manager selection headache.
However, he only found himself on the bench again on Saturday night when Arsenal hosted Chelsea.
Things are unlikely to change, though, with Walcott proving the right-winger who brings the best out of the centre-forward in Alexis.
Besides, with Wenger seemingly unready to disturb the cycle of playing Iwobi down the left flank until Kieran Gibbs replaces him after 70 minutes, Lucas only finds his first-team opportunities limited.
Since his chances of making the starting eleven directly relies on the number of minutes last season’s first choice centre-forward in Giroud garners, he now finds himself in a situation where only a Jamie Vardy-esque miracle will help him start half as many matches as he did in Spain last season.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
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