They say top clubs have to sign players who match their standards or those who can match their lofty expectations. And fans often tend to look down upon signings that don’t match their expectations, especially when they look forward to signing a player that matches the standard of the powerhouse club that they support.
Arsenal fans are seemingly heading towards another such stage when the signing of a player doesn’t match what they expected from the club. And they would certainly feel like they’ve been there before several times in the past. But this time around, the criticism is likely to soon turn into plaudits.
Lucas Perez, the Deportivo striker, who is on the brink of sealing a move to the Emirates, is a man who is not being viewed as a solution to Arsenal’s irksome issues up front. The 27-year-old Spaniard, who scored as many as 17 times for Deportivo last season, assisting eight times as his side finished 15th in the La Liga last season.
Olivier Giroud, who is still struggling with fitness after featuring for France in the Euros, has not started a single game for the Gunners this season as Arsene Wenger has resorted to playing Alexis Sanchez up front and Theo Walcott wide. Giroud had scored 16 times in the Premier League for Arsene Wenger’s side last season, helping them finish as high as second following a late run of results. The Chilean isn’t someone the players around him can target to rely on his passing and hold up play, such that the others can make runs and move in behind. He can’t act as a focal point of attack.
Sanchez, who was usually deployed on the left last season, has been replaced by Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, who scored against Liverpool in a game that saw Arsenal get just five shots on target. He comes short to receive the ball more often than standing in front of defenders and making clever runs around them. Him coming short denies the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Oxlade Chamberlain and Walcott to find space to work with, since the opposition centre-backs aren’t stretched well enough to allow them space to pick out Sanchez.
Giroud is someone who did just that. A majority of his criticism comes from detractors who don’t like him fluffing opportunities or not being quick enough to take defenders on and beat. But the Frenchman’s contributions to Arsenal are rather undervalued, but incoming Lucas Perez has just what Giroud lacks and is an upgrade, contrary to popular opinion. Against Leicester as well, Arsenal’s attack looked blunt with Sanchez up front, as the Gunners had only four shots on goal.
The Spaniard, who almost single handedly helped Deportivo avoid relegation last season is being dubbed more as a panic buy than a much needed addition to the side, especially because Lyon star Alexandre Lacazette was Arsenal priority. Lyon’s unwillingness to sell the French star made Wenger switch attention to Perez, much to the surprise of the fans.
A quicker and agile form of Giroud, Perez has the experience of playing for clubs in countries such as Greece and Ukraine too and joined Deportivo on a permanent basis only last season, before having spent a loan spell at Estadio Riazior in the 2014-15 campaign. The short loan spell at Depor saw the Spaniard rack up six goals in 21 appearances, as he helped the club avoid relegation by guiding them to a 16th placed finish.
A former Atletico Madrid player, Lucas represented the Atleti C team and scored 18 times for them in 55 appearances. After joining Rayo Vallecano from Atletico, Lucas plied his trade with the Rayo B side before going on to make just seven appearances for the senior side. Although the forward has never been blessed with a renowned club, barring Atletico Madrid at a rather young age, but he’s got the tool kit to become just what Arsenal need. His first outing for Depor this season saw him grab an assist and a goal, helping the side beat Eibar 2-1.
Capable of playing on the right or on the left too due his pace, Lucas prefers his left foot and his balance on the ball is really good. He likes to cut inside from the right, which is his favourite area of movement on the pitch. He completed 1.1 dribbles per game last season, as compared to Giroud’s statistics of 0.1 per game. He has the pace to go past a man and likes to do so too.
He has excelled as a striker more, which is clear from his exploits last season. He acted as the focal point of the attack, holding up the ball up front, allowing wingers to make runs around him. He keeps defenders on his toes and with his back to goal, moves across the back four always looking to do something or the other.
Last season, he had a shot accuracy of 59 percent, as compared to Giroud’s 54 percent that too in the presence of the assist-loving Mesut Ozil. More so, Lucas has the knack for squeezing out shots on goal and is one lethal finisher. When getting shots away, the former Rayo man knows how to make spaces for himself and find the back of the net.
Lucas’ chance creation ability suggests how much of a complete forward he is. The Spaniard created 72 chances throughout last season, which is exactly double of Giroud’s tally of 36.
One aspect of the game where Lucas lags behind Giroud is heading, in terms of which the former Montpellier man won 52 percent of headers last season. As far as Lucas is concerned, he won only 24 percent of headers last year, bringing to the fore a certain amount of weakness in his play, when it comes to plying his trade in the Premier League. But Lucas, who has been dubbed by FourFourTwo’s David Cartlidge as the ‘Spanish Vardy’, is a tireless worker too, much like the England international. Off the ball, Lucas is always pressing the opposition defenders and acts as a headache for them, attempting to nick the ball off in areas close to the goal. And much like Vardy, who was used by Claudio Ranieri to chase long balls with the help of his lung-bursting pace and stamina, Lucas has also donned a similar role under Gaizka Garitano. But unlike Vardy, who is not too secure and sound in possession, Lucas is very good in possession.
Arsenal, who are desperate to sign what we call a ‘world class forward’, may be getting a quality forward for a decent fee. Giroud was signed for a £9.6 million fee from Montpellier and has done decently well, but considering the kind of player Lucas Perez is, he will do much better than him in all aspects.