Connect in the back of the net

I’m sure when Lucas Pérez signed for Arsenal last summer, he dreamt of a twenty-one appearance season.

He wasn’t in Wenger’s plans then and he isn’t now. Arsenal bought Lucas Pérez from Deportivo La Coruña for twenty million euros.

It was hardy the marquee signing Arsenal fans wanted.

 

Who knew of Perez?

Let’s be honest, how many Arsenal fans knew who Lucas Pérez was before the signing? Probably not many, including myself.

After Jamie Vardy foolishly rejected Arsenal to stay with then-defending champions Leicester, Arsenal were desperate.

In a summer where Arsenal had splashed almost ninety-million euros on Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, there was still one key signing to make.

The center-forward position needed bolstering.

With the summer almost running out and Arsenal still without that striker, they seemed to go for option five, six, or seven.

On the last day of the transfer window, Lucas Pérez signed for Arsenal.

 

Better than nothing

The previous season, Pérez helped Deportivo La Coruña avoid relegation in La Liga by scoring seventeen goals.

He had become a bit of a fan favorite by scoring a tying goal at Camp Nou, while on loan, helping them avoid relegation the season before as well.

After which, Deportivo decided to make the loan permanent. In addition, Pérez is also from Coruña only adding to his popularity among the squad.

It was a striker. A striker is better than no striker.

My pure lack of knowledge of the player’s existence said a lot for me. His name just wasn’t in the conversation. Not just the Arsenal transfer conversation, but any world football conversation.

Maybe die-hard La Liga followers could prove me wrong here. However, from an Arsenal perspective he was simply not on the radar.

 

So, what’s he like as a player?

He’s a twenty eight year old left-footed forward who can also play out wide.

He’s got technique, he’s comfortable with the ball and has a nice turn of pace. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get to display those qualities this season in North London.

Whenever he played, he got benched. And whenever he played, he played well.

Pérez made twenty one total appearances for Arsenal recording seven goals and five assists. It’s not a bad turnaround for a forward, considering his limiting playing time.

It’s very common for players to need a full season to acclimate to a new league, club, country, and lifestyle.

Sometimes even longer for strikers who find themselves isolated up top, with their goal scoring being heavily dictated by confidence and form.

In the small sample size we have, Pérez was efficient.

 

Lack of game time

After scoring a hat trick against FC Basel in the last match of the group stage, which propelled Arsenal to top the group — he wasn’t even in the squad for the first leg against Bayern in the knockout round.

He only made two starting elevens in the Premier League out of his eleven appearances. He featured slightly more in the less glamorous EFL Cup and the early rounds of the FA Cup, but still nothing he could have been happy with.

Pérez suffered a thigh muscle strain in mid-March and didn’t play the rest of the season.

You bought him. Play him. So why didn’t he play?

Wenger never wanted him. Someone made a calculated decision to make this purchase.

The boss tried to give him minutes in competitions usually reserved for B squads and youngsters, another sign he was never in the plans.

A manager doesn’t buy an experienced striker and not play him, which leads me to believe the signing came from elsewhere. Arsenal undoubtedly needed to fill a void at the position and they did.

The Lucas Pérez signing checks a box rather then solves the problem.

 

Not the solution Wenger wanted

We signed a striker. It takes pressure of the men in suits for a moment after they filled a gaping hole in the squad with a player no one had ever heard of.

It’s unfair to Pérez, who played well when given the chance. What more can you ask of him? He was professional all throughout.

He was unfortunate to not play more. Strikers are frequently rewarded for their goal scoring, especially in limited roles off the bench.

Whether it was because of stubbornness or something else, Wenger could rarely find minutes for him.

It’s a breakdown in upper management from Arsenal. A poorly planned and executed striker search, ending up with a desperation buy.

 

Not Perez or Wenger’s fault

Arsenal have been on the search for a top striker for several seasons now.

I wouldn’t call the signings of Danny Welbeck and Lucas Pérez successes in that regard. While neither of them are bad players, they aren’t at the level required to be the starting striker for a Premier League champion.

It’s not Pérez’s fault. He accepted an opportunity and a challenge. It’s not necessarily Wenger’s fault, although he could and probably should have played him more.

Once again, it’s more the fault of the clusterfuck that is the Arsenal hierarchy than anyone else.

It’s hard to compare anyone to Park Chu-young. Especially because when Lucas Pérez played, he was pretty good all things considered.

That being said, his lack of appearances, coupled with his disappearance in the last two months of the season bear similarities to the South Korean striker’s spell at Arsenal.

 

Arsenal needed the position, but not the player

If Lucas Pérez leaves this summer, I can’t blame him. Arsenal should sell him, because they should buy a younger/better striker.

Will they? Probably not.

In the meantime, let’s hope Pérez doesn’t become the next Park Chu-young. No one really can, can they?

Pérez is better than that. And for his sake, I hope he gets playing time. Whether that’s at Arsenal, or somewhere else.

 

Written by Kyle Keenan

Follow Kyle on Twitter @kyleskeenan

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