What has Lucas Pérez done to Arsène Wenger to justify the continuous, inexplicable, appalling lack of game time, since he joined from Deportivo La Coruña?
I understand why many supporters are left wondering about the manager’s reluctance to play the Spaniard, however Arsène Wenger himself let slip some interesting words about Lucas Pérez during a recent interview with the Club’s official website. He basically admitted that he brought him in only because he did not know for how long Danny Welbeck would be out.
“At the start of the season I bought Lucas, who for me is a very good player. But why? Because Welbeck was out until now basically and I didn’t know how long it would take.”
Except for the “for me is a very good player” part, it’s not really flattering for the Spaniard, who didn’t do much to deserve the treatment he’s currently receiving; I hope that the manager has been frank to him about how much and where he would play him but it’s hard to understand why he’s regularly overlooked, especially if you see how many of our players have struggled for form and confidence.
What I understand from Arsène Wenger’s words is that there’s no long-term plan for him at the Club: he was bought to temporarily plug the hole left by Danny Welbeck long-term absence but the former Manchester United player’s early recovery suddenly made Lucas Pérez almost surplus to requirement – less than six months after he joined.
Lucas Pérez has already scored seven goals and provided four assists in roughly 900 minutes of football, which is rather impressive for a player who has never enjoyed a proper run in the team, but he has only featured – and shone – against lower teams or in meaningless games like Basel away; although it is not an excuse to overlook him for more serious games, it proves that Arsène Wenger never really counted on him.
Perhaps the manager was surprised by the Galician’s performances and didn’t really expect to be in such a delicate position at this point, when supporters and journalists are increasingly frustrated by the apparent unfairness towards Lucas Pérez, but it appears clear that Lucas Pérez is not part of the masterplan.
Whether our scouting system is not good enough or Arsène Wenger himself rushed the decision to sanction the move, the result is that we have a very good player at our disposal but the manager is hesitating to unleash him.
In his post-match interview after the FA Cup win against Sutton United, Arsène Wenger acknowledged Lucas Pérez brilliant record but quickly reminded everyone that he has many options at his disposal, only mentioning the former PAOK striker at the end of the list – his current position in the pecking order.
Get your replica wall clock here
Alexis Sánchez is obviously ahead of him in the manager’s preferences and so is Theo Walcott, given the number goals he scored so far, but why are Olivier Giroud and Alex Iwobi also part Arsène Wenger’s favourite options?
The latter is a really promising guy but he hasn’t been near his best for some time now, while Olivier Giroud still has the limits we all know and make us very predictable.
On current form and performances, Lucas Pérez has done enough to bench both the Nigeria international and the former Montpellier target man – yet he’s restricted to domestic cup games and sporadic appearances from the bench.
My hypothesis is that, at 28 years of age, Lucas Pérez is not the hot prospect that Alex Iwobi is (or Danny Welbeck is, to some extent) – another talent who could owe his whole career to Arsène Wenger – nor can be the “Plan B” striker that Olivier Giroud is.
Too similar to Alexis Sánchez to represent a valid tactical variation and too old to be turned into a great footballer, Lucas Pérez finds himself in Arsène Wenger’s limbo, a place from where not many footballers were able to escape.
I hope his dedication, commitment, quality and fighting spirit will take him out of this no-man land, because he could play a major part in the second half of the season, but I fear he’ll be marginalised until the inevitable sale.