Arsenal have gotten their wish. Wenger and company have finally decided it is time to get out their wallets and splash £52 million on a striker and a centre-back; confirmed by the ever-reliable David Ornstein. However, the name being mentioned is not one many Arsenal fans are too familiar with. Step forward Lucas Pérez Martinez or simply Lucas. He is a Spanish striker who began his career in Atlético Madrid C before moving to Rayo Vallenco, Karpaty Lviv, Dynamo Kyiv (playing 0 games), PAOK and finally Deportivo La Coruña. Last season was his breakthrough season scoring scoring 17 goals in Spain and making 8 assists for a struggling Deportivo side who finished 15th. Despite his heroics, it seems to be all irrelevant to the Arsenal fan who have been starving for a world class striker to finally relieve the credible Giroud of his duties. The question on possibly every Gunner’s lips is, “Is this guy any good?”.
Lucas is a very versatile attacking player. He played most of his career as a right-attacking midfielder before moving more centrally to supporting striker and central attacking midfield. He then finally settled into a centre-forward role at Deportivo last season. One of his main strengths as expected of an attacking midfielder is his link-up play. Chance creation is also a major part of his game and thus no surprise that he was linked to Arsenal. In comparison to Arsenal’s current number one striker Olivier Giroud, as well as two major strikers linked with Arsenal this off season Jamie Vardy and Antoine Griezmann, Lucas holds up well. Last season, he was noted to have 1.84 key passes per game, significantly greater than any other of the names mentioned. This is particularly interesting because Giroud and Griezmann are both lauded for both their hold-up play and chance creation. Lucas is also a threat from set-pieces, and getting assists from corners and indirect free kicks is a known occurrence.
How Does He Compare to Other Options?
In terms of passing, his numbers decreased after being moved into a more central role rather than the second-striker or right-winger roles he played the previous season. 25.5 passes per 90 is not a horrible return and it is comparable to Giroud at 31.07, though Lucas falls short of the 39.83 produced by Griezmann. He does make more passes per 90 than Vardy at 17.95, however, which almost instantly makes him appear as a better fit. Of note Lucas does have a better pass accuracy percentage of 59% than both Giroud, 54% and, Vardy at 57% which is equivalent to Griezmann’s. The Spaniard is also no slouch when it comes to assists. He boasted the highest per 90 at 0.23, edging Giroud with 0.22 who had 8 in total. One would wonder if Lucas’ numbers would have been higher had he been in a team with better players to finish those opportunities.
Strikers score goals and many of those less statistically inclined will chime in with those sentiments. So, does Lucas score bags of goals? This is where he may disappoint said fans. He put away 17 goals last season which is a good, if not a great, tally for a struggling club; although some would argue that Arsenal needs someone more capable up front. His goals scored per 90 is by far the lowest of all the strikers mentioned, including the much maligned Giroud. Interestingly, he does have the highest shot accuracy of all the strikers though, as well as a reasonable 2.87 shots per 90. In terms of types of goals scored, it is a mixed bag. He is left-footed but capable of scoring with his right foot as well. He is also a penalty specialist, something that Arsenal lacks. However, one attribute that Giroud is lauded for is his imperious aerial ability. Lucas lacks it ENTIRELY.
What Lucas lacks in terms of aerial ability he makes up for in pace. He is an agile and speedy player, who loves to play off the last defender. He runs onto through-balls or defensive errors and capitalise on possible one-on-one opportunities with the opposition’s goalkeeper. Dribbling-wise, he is solid with the ball at his feet completing 1.09 ‘take-on’s per 90 and is more than capable of taking on his man with a 49.35% success rate. One would deem him more of a ‘change of pace’ dribbler than a technical dribbler, but he uses it to great effect as evidenced statistically with a similar successful take-on statistic as Vardy, 1.12, who employs a similar style, and Griezmann at 0.95. The less that is said about Giroud at this point, the better. Surprisingly he has a significantly better take-on percentage than all the other strikers which suggests a quite effect dribbling technique.
Does This Mean He is Good?
Will he fit into the system? What does this all mean for Lucas and Arsenal? Statistically, one would seem to think that he would be a great asset for Arsenal. He offers creativity, dribbling and goal scoring ability. However, one must note the team he played for and the system that was used. Deportivo being a much smaller club played a very counter-attacking style with mediocre creative players. This is the polar opposite of the style The Arsenal use. The team was basically built around Lucas to aid his creative output and goal-scoring, which will not be the case at Arsenal. His time in Greece and Ukraine is shrouded in mystery and the question of whether the system was a possession based one remains an unanswered one.
One strength that he does have is his ability to carve out chances for himself, as well as improvising and pulling goals out of nothing. As there was little creativity at Deportivo, he had to work extra hard to create things. Whether it was challenging defenders and forcing an error, executing an individual dribble to a long shot or an improvised scissor kick from a ball bouncing around in the box. While his goal-scoring ability cannot be doubted, he has been known to require numerous chances before finally finding the net (shades of Giroud). The Arsenal faithful can only hope that this is down to the quality of his supporting cast instead of profligacy in front of goal.
He is also a player who looks for the pass rather than going it alone selfishly. This fits perfectly into the “Wengerball” philosophy. Lucas is at his best when he has another forward playing along side him. He did so this season with Luis Alberto and brought the best out of a player who has had rough spells at numerous clubs. Having played at attacking midfield, second-striker and right-wing he is equally adept at picking a pass, as well as playing in a cross. Giroud may be happy to hear these things as it suggests Wenger would want Giroud and Lucas to play off each other similar to Giroud and Griezmann did for France at Euro 2016. This, of course, is “maddening” to the Arsenal fans who were expecting a far more “mad” signing.
One final note is that he is a big game player having scored important goals to prevent relegation for Deportivo. Last season he scored goals against Spanish monoliths, such as Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.
Whether Lucas Pérez will be a good signing for Arsenal is yet to be seen. On the surface, it seems he has all the attributes to be a useful signing. He is versatile, creative, and a goal threat. However, he has minimal experience at the highest level and performed best in a counter-attacking system built around him. Statistically, he is promising and if he maintains or betters his form from last season, the fans will be chanting Wenger’s name from the stands again. They will forget all about the #madness… until January at least.