Do you know what I think I’ll do today? I think I’ll talk a little bit about Lucas Perez. I was going to do something about Big Per and his contract extension and who gets shunted out the door out of all of our centre halves this summer, but I feel like I haven’t dedicated enough time to our new Spaniard.
Quite frankly, he probably deserves more than I’ve given so far, because he’s been a really positive influence on the pitch for most of the times I’ve seen him.
I’ve been inspired to talk about him having watched The Breakdown with Adrian Clarke but, having also read a short piece on the official site about how he’s had to learn and adapt in his career since leaving home at an early age, that’s probably also had an impact on me web-based-chinwagging about him today.
Let’s face it though, at a time I which many are marvelling at the whole Bramall ‘living the dream’ PR guff that’s come out this week, Lucas’ story is equally compelling. He’s moved around a lot, never quite had a season that saw him catch the attention of the ‘big boys’ until last season – at 27 – and really had to graft his way to where he got to. Arsène spoke about that when we signed him and talked up how it had toughened him up somewhat; hardened him to the challenges an individual faces in the modern game.
But he’s overcome them and the move to Arsenal has been his reward for his effort and graft, which has given him a shot at one of the top 10-15 teams in Europe. That deserves some respect.
But you can tell by his character that he’s still not 100% happy, he’s still wanting to do more and he wants to make an impact. He has a hunger about him on the pitch that we’re all growing to love. Chasing down loose balls like the one that led to the second goal last weekend, hassling and hurrying defenders when the ball is played too long in to the channels, he’s the archetypal footballer that fans of the Premier League love. This country loves grafters and there’s no doubt that’s what he is.
Some have likened him to Podolski. He’s certainly got some of the finishing repertoire to emulate the loveable German and his goal against Bournemouth demonstrated that. But as much as I/we loved Poldi (more for his off field shenanigans than on it though), Lucas has that little bit extra in his locker than our previous number nine had.
I don’t know for sure, but he certainly looks quicker than Podolski. He is able to beat a man for pace more than the German could. For a striker that’s a massive asset and it also has a huge impact on your style of game. For example, how many times did we see Poldi drift centrally and then look to run in behind defenders? It just didn’t happen. Podolski was an excellent marksman and scored some great goals for us, but they tended to be with defenders in front of him, or in tightly confined spaces in the box. Lucas is happy to look for runs off the last man – very much like Theo is – and at a time where the Englishman is injured, having somebody like that available is very important. It also means that unlike Podolski, Lucas Perez is more versatile. Podolski tended to stick to his left forward position and would exchange passes with his teammates in that left forward position. They would tend to be small ‘give and go’ type passes. Lucas does that, but he has more movement about him without the ball, I think.
Now have a think about Perez in terms of his movement. His goal against Bournemouth was likened to a Podolski effort, but I saw movement before the goal that I can’t recall seeing too much of from Podolski. He’s nowhere near as static and for that reason, I’d fancy him to have a better future with The Arsenal than Poldi did.
The challenge he has, however, will be breaking in to the team. He’s shown definite promise that’s for sure. The fact that I’ve been speaking to multiple sets of Arsenal fans who have all pondered as to why he isn’t starting is testimony to the success he’s been having on the pitch of late. Calls for players to start games don’t just happen because they have a nice name or a pretty face, they happen because a player is performing on the pitch, something I think you can definitely say about Perez.
This weekend will be interesting though. If Theo is still out and Alexis comes back, you’d have to think that there will only be one slot available in the front three. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Arsène does like his hierarchies. Iwobi and the Ox are higher on the pecking order at the moment – like Gibbs was with Monreal before his injury and the rise to form of Nacho. But eventually his good performances secured him a regular slot and if Lucas doesn’t start on Saturday, but comes on and has an impact, you have to wonder whether Arsène’s hierarchy will change.
Lucas deserves a run in the team I think. He’s played a key role in the last two games and we need to see if he can do it on a consistent basis from the start. It’s all very well having him as an important impact player for games – those types of players are always important at big clubs – but we need to see if there’s a player in there who can stake a real claim for a start. After all, if we all put ourselves in Lucas’ boots, how long would you stick around for if you were just a squad player at 28 years old?
Not long. Plus, he’ll have his pace for what, three more years max? After that he’ll have to adapt his game and play who knows in which direction it’ll take him. But for this current Arsenal team, his pace and movement is something that I think will work alongside Giroud and Alexis, but there’s only one way to find out.
Play him, Arsène.