Lucas Perez is finally acclimatising to English football and benefitting from an extended run in the Arsenal team, with the Spaniard getting a goal or assist every 67 minutes this season.
His arrival at Emirates Stadium was met with a mixed response from many supporters who felt that the failure to sign Leicester City’s Premier League-winning striker Jamie Vardy would affect their chances of challenging for the title. Vardy wasn’t the world class goalscorer fans wanted, but he proved himself in the top flight over the course of last season and was seen by many as the fox in the box Arsenal have wanted since the days of Eduardo da Silva.
Perez, signed from Deportivo La Coruna fo £17.5 million, jumped at the chance to join one of Europe’s biggest clubs after impressing for his boyhood club by scoring 17 goals in La Liga last season. His adaptation process has been relatively easy due to already having a grasp of the English language and having his father in the capital with him - his father, interestingly, owns an octopus stand in Camden market.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger usually targets players who are intelligent on the pitch and grounded off it and Perez possesses both of those traits. His decision to leave home at the age of 15 to play in the Basque country was one that gave him independence and showed his drive to succeed.
“You learn much more from difficult times than from good times. You need to have gone through some tough times to appreciate the good,” Perez recently told Arsenal’s official website. While he may not excite fans in the same way Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil can, Perez offers a different threat to the other attackers in the team. He’s a ball-running winger with a strong desire to score, although he has been chipping in with assists this season and appears to have forged a strong relationship with in-form frontman Olivier Giroud.
His six goals and five assists in 12 appearances have gone under the radar due to the performances of Sanchez and more recently Giroud - but it now looks like Arsene Wenger is convinced with his performances.
When Arsenal have everyone injury-free they are blessed with a wealth of options throughout the team, particular in the forward areas where the return of Danny Welbeck will increase competition for places. The creativity and passing of Ozil coupled with the unpredictability of Alexis give Wenger’s side a frontline capable of firing them to the league title. Despite an injury hampering Perez’s progress early on, his ability to bounce back and provide a reliable threat for a side who are renowned for their prowess in the final third is promising.
Theo Walcott remains on the sidelines through injury while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has yet to tap that unfulfilled potential which could see him decide to leave the Gunners at the end of the season. In three games in the league, Champions League and FA Cup Perez has scored three goals and notched one assist. While the numbers are mightily impressive for a player who has only been able to show his qualities in spurts, it’s the hard-working nature of the Spaniard which endears him to fans and team-mates alike.
“When you’re having a good time, make the most of it and appreciate what you’ve got," said Perez when reminiscing on his time as a youngster in Basque country. If he can continue producing moments of quality on the pitch then it surely won’t be long before the good times repeat themselves and a call-up to the Spain national team comes calling.