Arsene Wenger left it late on transfer deadline day to bolster his attacking options but finally has a player to compete with Oliver Giroud for the lone striker role. Lucas Perez signed for Arsenal from Deportivo La Coruna after the Gunners met the player’s buyout clause of £17.1million and the 27-year-old may finally provide the cutting edge that has been lacking in recent years at the Emirates.
Giroud’s tendency to go through dry patches at crucial times had led many Arsenal fans to cry out for change and plead with Wenger to throw some money at top European targets. The club had been linked with Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Bacca, Alexandre Lacazette, and Jamie Vardy, but their failure to land any of these players infuriated supporters even more.
The acquisition of Lucas has been met with some trepidation so far. There is relief that a player has been brought in, but there is also a lot of uncertainty over enlisting the services of a striker who only really made a name for himself last season. The Spanish forward scored 17 goals and got 10 assists in 2015/16 for a struggling La Liga side that only narrowly avoided relegation. Prior to that he hadn’t done much to impress, and has never been called up to represent the national team.
His late rise could be compared to Vardy, though, who only really began to shine in Leicester City’s title-winning campaign. It is expected that with high quality players surrounding Lucas he will be able to elevate his game to the next level and become recognised as one of the top European strikers.
Even though he has been brought in as an alternative to Giroud, Lucas will still face competition from the Frenchman for starts. It is likely that Wenger will select his favoured striker based on the opposition, similarly to what he tried to do last year with Giroud and Theo Walcott.
Lucas would provide incisive speed to cut through defences and Giroud would continue to operate in situations that require a target man and someone who can hold the ball up. For this reason, Lucas is very much an outside contender at 50/1 (odds via oddschecker) to walk away with this season’s Golden Boot. Using the free bets that bookies offer, bettors may want to have a punt on this unlikely outcome nonetheless, as the returns would be massive if Arsenal’s new signing starts to upset the odds.
The signing of Lucas certainly presents Wenger with a wealth of new options in the final third. He could alternate Giroud and Lucas as the strikers, or he could continue with the Frenchman up front and play the former Deportivo man on the wing. Lucas also provides cover for the lone striker berth when Giroud enters his inevitable dry spell, and Wenger would then be able to deploy the likes of Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or Aaron Ramsey on the wing.
It remains to be seen just what kind of an impact Arsenal’s new signing will have at the Emirates. There is no doubt that he will drastically improve Wenger’s attacking options and if the Spaniard hits the ground running, it could soon mean that Giroud is surplus to requirements in North London.