Arsenal are on the verge of signing 27-year-old striker Lucas Perez from Deportivo after meeting his £17 million release clause.
The deal sees Arsene Wenger finally sign a striker after a three-month search that began with Jamie Vardy rejecting the Gunners in June. Perez is certainly not the high-profile acquisition fans had been hoping for, but he is an intriguing capture nonetheless.
Perez could be a big hit at the Emirates, but an adjustment period will perhaps hamper his immediate impact, leaving Wenger and Arsenal in a familiarly frustrated position come May. Arsenal to win the title is priced at 11/1.
Perez has only recently risen to acclaim after a patchy career. He spent his youth in the lower leagues of Spanish football before joining Atletico Madrid’s C team in 2007. He eventually transferred to Rayo Vallecano where he made a handful of senior appearances before spending two years in Ukraine and two years in Greece.
When he was loaned to Deportivo in 2014 nobody expected Perez, at 25, to become a top level striker. He was signed on a permanent transfer a year later and went on to contribute 25 goals in La Liga last season (17 goals, eight assists).
Perez is a fairly versatile player who has played on the left wing and up front in his career. He is a quick, agile footballer, who has an excellent passing range for a centre-forward and is intelligent in the final third. In this respect, he fits in nicely with the type of striker who Wenger loves to sign.
Arsenal’s pursuit of Vardy signified that Wenger was in the market for a hard-working, energetic and quick-footed forward and these are certainly attributes that describe Perez. He loves to lurk on the shoulder of the last defender, which could mean that he features predominantly as a super-sub option.
Perez might be considered an upgrade on Theo Walcott and, since he does not possess any real aerial threat, the Spaniard is not necessarily a direct replacement for Oliver Giroud. His nimble movement and incisive style could see him forge a strong partnership with Alexis Sanchez.
Will he solve Arsenal’s striker issues?
The biggest concern is that Perez only has one year of consistent goalscoring to his name. He scored six goals in 21 games for Deportivo in the 2014/15 season and nine goals in 32 games over two years at PAOK. These figures are even lower than Olivier Giroud’s.
Wenger must be assuming that the last nine months represent the beginning of a late-blooming career; if it was a one-off, Perez will prove to be yet another expensive mistake.
It will presumably take several months for Perez to get used to the speed and physicality of the Premier League, and thus Arsenal fans cannot expect immediate results. It is for this reason that Arsenal should not consider their transfer business complete.
It’s highly unlikely that Perez can have the same impact that signing Vardy, Gonzalo Higuain, Alexandre Lacazette or Carlos Bacca would have had, which in itself should concern fans. There is a reason why Arsenal have not come close to the title in recent years, whilst their rivals have achieved success with the likes of Vardy, Sergio Aguero or Diego Costa. Sadly, Perez is not of the same standard.
More generally speaking this is certainly a time for optimism. Wenger looks set to spend around £100 million in a window for the first time in his career and has successfully recognised the three weakest areas of the team – centre-back, central midfield and up front.
However, his well-documented pursuit of a striker shows how low Perez was on his wish list. There is no doubt he will add quality to the squad – particularly whilst Danny Welbeck is injured – but he will almost certainly not hit 25-30 league goals and transform Arsenal into genuine title contenders.