Lucas Perez was named on the bench for Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Lincoln in the FA cup quarter-final last weekend. Lucas had started in each previous round, performing well at Preston, Southampton, and Sutton. Arsene Wenger chose to stick with the forwards who played in the humiliating defeat at home to Bayern Munich just days before, leaving Lucas, who has not featured extensively this season, wondering what he has to do to get a game.

The forward arrived last summer from hometown club Deportivo La Coruna for £17. But having made just two Premier League starts this season, cups are supposed to be his chance.

Lucas is clearly unsettled. Recently there have been increasing noises from his camp that the Spaniard wants out. Last month his representative was quoted as saying: “Look, the truth is that Lucas wants to leave at all costs and is not happy at Arsenal, he hasn’t settled and hasn’t had a chance to play and show what he can do”.

While rumours he was desperate to quit north London were subsequently quelled, it is clear Lucas is not entirely comfortable at Arsenal. This week, the Sun claimed West Ham were interested in signing him in the summer. The same article added that Arsene Wenger rebuffed a £26-million offer from a Chinese club in January.

The signing of Lucas last August, just before transfer deadline day, was out of the blue for many Arsenal fans. With Danny Welbeck injured, Theo Walcott failing in a no.9 role, and Alexis Sanchez ostensibly a winger, Wenger was clearly searching for a forward. Jamie Vardy turned Arsenal down, and the club were also linked to the likes of Alvaro Morata and Alexandre Lacazette.

It would be slightly unfair to suggest the acquisition of Lucas was a panic buy. Arsenal had been scouting him for some months. But reportedly the Gunners previously passed up the opportunity to sign him, believing he was not quite good enough, despite scoring 17 goals for Deportivo that season. Everton were about to buy him before Arsenal came rushing in. Perhaps not a panic buy, but with Welbeck injured, it certainly felt like settling for a backup player rather than the big name fans craved.

Lucas was 27 when he arrived, a player who had never fully succeeded and had journeyed to Greece and Ukraine in search of a career. He is someone who arrived with plenty of experience, if not at the top level, and was clearly a fighter. Many pundits drew similarities between him and Vardy.


Photo by: Олег Дубина

Six months into his Arsenal career, Wenger has never fully trusted him. Lucas scored twice in his second start, in the EFL Cup at Nottingham Forest. In December, he bagged a hat-trick in Basel, securing top spot for Arsenal in the Champions League. But his two Premier League starts came in September and January, with limited game time in between. No wonder he is growing frustrated.

One problem for Lucas is that, although it has been an inconsistent season for Arsenal, scoring goals has not been the issue. As of 17 March, Alexis Sanchez has 21; Theo Walcott has 17; and Olivier Giroud has 12. Even Mesut Ozil has contributed 9 so far. Arsenal’s problems lie further back.

When the attack has struggled, however, notably against bigger teams, Wenger has often decided to keep the forwards for the following match. After the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea and the 5-1 home loss to Bayern, Wenger kept his ailing strikers. In both subsequent games Lucas made brief cameos. It could be that Wenger is trying to play his ailing forwards into form. Furthermore, when Welbeck eventually came back from long-term injury, he immediately overtook Lucas in the pecking order.

Lucas’ struggle for minutes is all the more surprising considering he has played well whenever he has featured. In his limited game time, he has scored 7 and had 5 assists. He is direct where other Arsenal players dally, can play in any of the front three positions, and has shown he can link up well with his teammates. At Southampton he created numerous opportunities for Welbeck and Walcott while in the 4-1 win at Basel he linked up well with Alexis, Ozil and Alex Iwobi.

Lucas has evaded much of the Arsenal fans’ ire at the current state of the team. Of course, this is partly because of his peripheral role in the side. He is innocent by disassociation; he has not had the chance to fail. Nevertheless, in the glimpses we have had, Lucas has shown he deserves more of a chance. Understandably, the forward is growing frustrated at Arsenal.