I recently did an end of season Loan Review, which featured a certain signing from the summer of 2016. In that year, Lucas Perez left Deportivo La Coruña to join up with the Arsenal but found life difficult in north London. So, after just one season, he re-joined the Spanish club on loan.
However, with the La Liga side relegated, it is clear that the Spaniard will return to the Emirates. Just what could he bring to Unai Emery‘s team? Well, let’s discuss that.
Could Lucas Perez Figure at Arsenal?
A year after signing Lucas Perez, the Gunners laid out their largest transfer fee ever paid for a player, striker Alexandre Lacazette. The club followed the feat six months later by doing the same thing, this time with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Although striker is Perez’s preferred position, it seems very unlikely that we will see him as a number nine in this team anytime soon. While the Spaniard can also play on the right, the January acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan would preclude Perez from taking the starting spot on that flank.
However, on the left side of attack, the team’s only real options are an often-unimpressive Danny Welbeck, an out-of-position Aubameyang or the still-developing Reiss Nelson. The front four of Lacazette, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan plus Mesut Özil, however, makes his inclusion even on the left wing unlikely.
The team just can’t justify keeping five attacking players in the starting XI, especially when the central midfielders don’t do much to protect the back line. However, that doesn’t mean Lucas Perez can’t make an impact in the squad.
Strength Through Depth
Last season, the club began the campaign with the Premier League’s largest squad. The likes of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, despite being long-time regulars, were relegated to a rotation role. This allowed Wenger to keep a fresh team for both the league and cups.
With Arsenal again playing in the Europa League, a similar rotation policy makes good sense.
So, assuming the normal front four will be preserved for the Premiership, that opens the door for a number of depth players to get minutes. In such a situation, including Lucas Perez also makes sense.
There will be a strong youth presence in such a ‘B’ team, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for a veteran. Let’s examine the expected rotated attack.
Danny Welbeck, assuming he is still at the club come August, would be on the list, as would Alex Iwobi. If not sent out on loan, we can add Nelson and Eddie Nketiah as well.
Perez, Welbeck, Iwobi and Nelson can all play the flanks. Probably Welbeck’s best position right now is on the left, Iwobi can play almost anywhere up front, and the same is true for Perez. While all five couldn’t play at the same time, there would be minutes for all between the Carabao Cup and Europa League.
And, again, that is if neither Nelson or Nketiah go out on loan.
If Emery continues Wenger’s rotation policy, we see that there is room for Perez.
Let’s discuss some possible scenarios. For example, what if Lucas Perez is deemed surplus to requirement? The team paid about £17 million for the player in 2016, just what kind of return could we get?
Well, Perez struggled mightily during his Deportivo return. He scored just nine goals from 36 league appearances. Add that to his lone Premier League strike from the 2016-2017 season, and he has barely got to double-digits in goals over the past two full years.
Plus, the player turns 30 in September. While not a kiss of death, that is a sort of turning point in a player’s career when they begin to decline instead of improve. So, all signs indicate a small transfer fee.
Just how much good would, for argument’s sake, five million pounds do for this team? Such a sum is peanuts, even for the self-sustaining Arsenal.
The only real reason not to welcome the payer back, in a small role, is if he does not wish to return. In such a case, any petty transfer sum would do more good than Perez would in north London.
Lucas Perez won’t have a large role to play, at least at first, if he does come back to the club. However, his veteran know-how and flexibility in position would allow for at least a small contribution in the cups and Europa League.
While he won’t solve this team’s issues, the striker should get a chance.
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