It’s the curious case of Lucas Perez that I want to talk about today, because it’s an unusual one from an Arsenal perspective, particularly when it comes to Wenger.
What’s jogged me into focusing on our wantaway Spaniard is the supposed comments he’s made to the club about being unhappy and wanting to go back to Spain after one season. The straw that has broken the camels back? His demotion in terms of player number, with Lacazette being given the number nine jersey, previously worn by Lucas.
Apparently it’s the manner of being told how he was losing his number, which was when he found out after Lacazette had been signed and if true (again, still speculation without any direct quotes), then it’s a pretty poor show from a manager who you usually expect to always think about all of his players all of the time.
That’s kind of Arsène’s thing. Even though Debuchy has long been out of the team and nowhere near the first XI, even when he went public about being unhappy that he’s not playing, Arsène has still always had positive things to say. I think the only player who has had a proper dig at Arsène in his time at the club was Lassana Diarra when he left. That’s certainly the only one I can remember. All these years and so few examples of players having a dig (again, happy to be proved wrong but it’s just my memory recall at the moment) suggests to me that looking after his players and getting ‘the love’ from them is what Arsène has always been good at.
But should Lucas leave this transfer window – and you’d have to say it’s more than likely – I think he’ll be well within his rights to have a pop.
Let’s not forget this was a guy who had come off the back of a great season with Deportivo. A guy who was taking a punt by moving to England to see if he could step up. A guy who was at his prime. A guy who we pipped Everton to the post for. And a guy who we paid £17million for. That’s not a small chunk of change. That’s more than Arshavin, Reyes, Giroud, Podolski, Santi, Arteta, and even Welbeck. Yet he’s barely had a look in all season.
Then, when the summer comes around, he’s left at home with the other outcasts; a footballing leper who seems to have no future whatsoever.
And I have no idea why.
I get that his chances are probably limited now that we’ve bought Lacazette, but personally I’d rather see him given the chance and see players like Theo being shown the door because as much as Theo’s numbers suggest an effective player, I think Lucas’ show a more effective striker.
Lucas got seven goals from his limited playing time last season. He showed that even when he was used sporadically, he could make an instant impact. He tee’d up Giroud for the late winner against Preston. He scored a very well taken volley in the 3-3 against Bournemouth, he got his hat trick against Nottingham Forest and he notched goals against Ludogorets in the Champions League.
He made just eight starts last season.
Imagine what he could have potentially achieved if he’d have been afforded the same trust as Theo Walcott? Could we be seeing a guy who also got close to 20 goals this season? Could he be an upgrade on the position that Walcott occupies? I think so. He works harder off the ball than Theo. He’s better with the ball at his feet than Theo is. He seems to link up with some players – like Giroud – better than Theo does.
Wenger spoke about Lucas’ hunger as a player early in lat season. He talked about how a player like Lucas has had to work hard from where he has been to be in the position he’s in now. Yet despite demonstrating that and also demonstrating that he can do it on the pitch, he’s never been trusted, whilst others have seemingly had chance after chance to prove themselves.
It might sound like I’m picking on Walcott a bit here, which is perhaps a bit harsh, but Walcott is often cited as the ‘comfortable’ player at Arsenal. Happy with his lot and happy to collect his pay cheque. Some are suggesting now that Elneny is like that having heard that he doesn’t want to go to Leicester and is happy as a squad player. We hear about the culture of comfort at Arsenal and yet one guy at the club is about to jack it in and go somewhere else to get playing time. Because he’s hungry to play.
Why are we letting somebody like that go, when others should be in line ahead of him to be shipped out?
I have no idea. I don’t think I’ll ever know. But what I do know is that if/when Lucas’ time at Arsenal ends, it’ll be Arsenal that have missed a trick, by not effectively utilisng his services during his tenure at the club.
Catch you tomorrow.