Having scored six goals and created four assists for Arsenal this term, plenty of questions are being raised about why Lucas Perez has yet to be rewarded with an extended run-in the first-team.
When you put those stats in perspective, he’s contributed one goal or assist in just under 68 minutes (on average) when playing for the Gunners – though it has to be said that the bulk of his goals came during a Champions League hat-trick against Basel, you get the point.
The 28-year-old Spaniard joined Arsenal on the day before transfer deadline day, with many critics suggesting the deal was essentially a panic buy on Wenger’s part as he was under pressure to make some acquisitions after a disappointing home defeat on the opening weekend at the hands of Liverpool.
Immediately thrust into the action along with fellow recruit Shkodran Mustafi against Southampton on September 10, it was clear to some that he struggled to have the desired impact starting as the lone striker and despite a lack of service, was replaced shortly after the hour mark with plenty of questions about his suitability to England’s top flight.
It’s natural for questions to be asked of players and how they can adapt to the changing intensity of different leagues, especially moving from Spain to England, where many attack-minded players took some time to settle and improve their respective game as a result.
Successful examples include Sergio Aguero and our very own Alexis, but it’s hard for expectation not to be placed on players who depart for pastures new and have a price-tag on their head. Lucas was signed for £17m and since his display against Southampton, he has only started once in the Premier League – during a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day.
Those two things cannot be a coincidence and it’s for that same reason that you have to believe Wenger is doing his best to protect Lucas. It might seem like a trivial idea, especially given the fact that he’s a professional and should be mentally strong enough to deal with anything that comes his way but the boss has seen poor displays, coupled with harsh criticism crush players’ confidence in the past.
Granit Xhaka was in a similar situation not too long ago, but a long-term injury sustained by Santi Cazorla saw him start more regularly and he hasn’t looked back since.
It could also be due to maintaining balance within the squad, especially as there seems to be a pecking order in terms of starting places for players. Sánchez as well as Alex Iwobi and The Ox all seem to be higher placed in terms of minutes when compared to the Spaniard, which is understandable given the fact that he’s recently joined but hasn’t yet prove he’s a guaranteed starter.
He’s gradually getting more minutes under his belt which will improve his confidence over time and impressive performances will only give Wenger more of a selection headache in the future, provided he’s able to replicate his important contributions off the substitutes’ bench, in the way he did so against Bournemouth eleven days ago.