Will Arsene Wenger play Lucas Perez or Olivier Giroud up front for Arsenal?
Centre forward has been a problem that has plagued Arsenal for years. Ever since Robin van Persie departed for Manchester United in 2013, Arsene Wenger has yet to come up with a real world class solution to the issue.
Theo Walcott has been trialed there but has had struggles with his finishing and also being bullied by defenders. Danny Welbeck has tried, and been pretty good, but is more comfortable as a supporting forward when he is not on the treatment table.
The most common incumbent of the position, though, has been Olivier Giroud. Excellent on his day, but plodding and slow much of the rest of the time, he’ll often follow a run of ten goals in ten games by firing blanks for the next fifteen. His inconsistencies have often been pinpointed as a significant factor in Arsenal failing to make the jump from top four to title winners, and now Wenger has signed a new forward to help with that transition.
The man in question is Lucas Perez – a £17 million capture from Deportivo La Coruna who was looking set to join Everton before Arsenal jumped in during the last week of the transfer window.
Like Giroud, 27-year-old Perez is a member of the late bloomers club, and exhibited very few signs of turning into a world class striker in his early career. However, in a breakout season last campaign, Perez bagged 17 goals and eight assists for a dire Deportivo side, and it looks as if a shift from the left hand side to the centre may have ignited his career.
It is of course possible, knowing Arsene Wenger and his peculiar tactical brain, that Perez will be playing as a left winger, Giroud will be left on the bench and Alexis Sanchez will continue in his uncomfortable role up front on his own, but the general thinking is that Perez and Giroud will be competing against each other for the same centre forward position.
The Frenchman will have the edge on Perez in Premier League experience, naturally, and also aerial abilities. Perez is well known in Spain to be weak in the air, which is likely to prove more of a problem in England than it would do on the continent, even for a footballing team such as Arsenal.
To counter this, Perez is excellent technically, and shouldn’t have much trouble holding the ball up, provided it is played into him on the deck. Plus, the Spaniard has more pace than the cumbersome number 12.
In terms of goals last term, the two players were remarkable similar, with Perez shading league tallies by one – 17 compared to Giroud’s 16. There were, however, some discrepancies in the statistics. Giroud scored far more frequently than Perez, with a goal every 151.5 minutes as opposed to 180 for the Spaniard. On the contrary, Lucas scored with 20% of his strikes compared to 15.8% for Giroud.
This suggests that in a team creating the number of chances that Arsenal do, Perez would likely thrive and score more goals than Giroud. A striker with a conversion rate as high as 20% is hard to come by, and if the Spaniard could keep that up, as well as chipping in with creative play as he does for Deportivo, he could have the edge on the Frenchman.
Much of Wenger’s decision depends on how quickly Perez settles to the increased physical challenges of the Premier League, but should he adapt to London life, he currently looks as if he would be an upgrade on Arsenal’s current striker. Whether he is good enough to fire The Gunners to a title win is another matter entirely, but with Perez, they should get a bit closer.
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