It looks almost certain that Lucas Perez will be leaving the club this summer after a season of limited opportunities.
Lucas’ move to Arsenal has ended up being one of the most bizarre Arsenal transfers in recent times, if only for the sheer lack of opportunities the Spaniard received.
Coming off a breakthrough season in La Liga, in which he scored 17 goals for a struggling Deportivo side, Lucas looked decent value for money at £17m. Not many fans had heard of him, and he clearly wasn’t Arsenal’s first choice striker that summer (that honour goes to Jamie Vardy), but it seemed that Arsenal had pulled off a good deal. He was quick, skilful and could score goals. What more could we want?
Fast forward to now, and it’s difficult to judge if Lucas was a bad signing or not, simply because he never received a chance to prove it one way or another. He managed just 11 league appearances for Arsenal, most of them from the bench, while being a regular in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. At times, he didn’t even make the Arsenal bench. Nobody is quite sure why.
There’s a feeling that Arsene Wenger simply didn’t rate him, but it seems out of character for Wenger to sanction a £17m move for a player he doesn’t like. Wenger would have known all about Lucas’ qualities, and in the past has demonstrated a willingness to not sign anybody at all if he doesn’t feel the player is a good fit. It’s doubtful that there was much panic in this buy.
Where it may have gone wrong is in the unexpected form of Alexis Sanchez as Arsenal’s striker. With Giroud still recovering from his Euro 2016 excursions and Welbeck out injured, the experiment that saw Alexis play at centre-forward instead of on the left wing turned out to be an amazing success. Alexis was prolific and creative in the position, so much so that people stopped thinking Arsenal needed a centre forward. While Lucas could have slotted in on the left or right of Arsenal’s attack, the early season form of Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi kept him out.
Wenger is a big fan of continuity and once he has a winning team, he sticks with it. By the time the wins started running out, Giroud was back and firing off the bench, while Welbeck had also returned from injury. With three players to choose from up front, there was no room for Lucas.
However, with Walcott and Iwobi losing form, there could have been room for him on the flanks. Lucas, at least, proved in his limited appearances that he could be productive. A hat-trick in the Champions League is nothing to sneeze at, while he was superb in the 6-0 rout against Southampton in the FA Cup. That was surely the time to give Lucas more games.
It didn’t happen, and when Arsenal switched to a three man defence at the expense of an attack, that one avenue into the Arsenal starting line-up was lost.
It seems that Lucas’ Arsenal career was hampered by a mixture of bad timing and questionable decisions. While on one hand he struggled to get into the team because it was playing well, he was never rewarded for good performances. That he was benched just days after his Champions League hat-trick is indicative of how Arsenal treated him.
It now appears he’s fallen even further down the pecking order. In an unintentionally symbolic move, Alexandre Lacazette has arrived and taken the number 9 shirt Lucas held. Lucas now has the number 28, a number for a squad player. It likely won’t be long until he gives up that shirt as well.