Perez’s arrival finally signals a case of pragmatism over idealism at Arsenal

If you had asked your average Arsenal fan back in May for a list of strikers they’d be happy for their club to go after this summer, it’s extremely unlikely that Lucas Perez’s name would have been mentioned. The 27-year-old striker had something of a breakthrough season for Deportivo La Coruna in 2015/16, and unless they were a particular fan of Spanish football outside of Barcelona and the two Madrid clubs, it’s entirely possible that they never would have heard of his name prior to this week.

To some, the rumoured signing of Perez – widely expected to be completed this weekend for a fee of around £17m – might be seen as something of an underwhelming acquisition. This summer, like so many before it, has been dominated by consistent links to strikers with far more illustrious reputations, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Gonzalo Higuain and Romelu Lukaku all reported to have been in Arsenal’s sights at various points over the summer, and after all of that Perez seems like something of a step down in comparison. It is now four years since Robin van Persie departed for Manchester United back in 2012, and it’s looking like Arsenal fans’ wait for a top-class striker to lead their attack must go on for a fifth season at the very least. To some this remains unacceptable, and it is easy to understand why this sentiment remains.

That is not to say that if Perez does indeed sign for Arsenal, his signing should not be welcomed. With the transfer window closing fast and the Premier League season already underway, it was beginning to look like Arsene Wenger would do as he did last summer and opt against signing a striker he wasn’t totally convinced about. The signings of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in 2013 and 2014 proved that he is willing to part with big money if he feels like the player is indisputably world class, but the failed attempt to bring in Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette earlier this window seemed to come about because he simply wasn’t willing to part with such a lofty fee for a player he wasn’t completely sure of. It’s an understandable approach, but in an age where quality strikers are few and far between, inflated fees are part and parcel of the game.

Last summer, after a lengthy saga involving Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema came to nothing, no striker arrived at Arsenal. For all intents and purposes, it seemed that if Wenger couldn’t land the star striker he really wanted, he’d sooner settle for what he already had than compromise on quality. This decision proved costly as the indifferent form of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud last season, coupled with long-term injuries to Danny Welbeck, contributing to what was an uncharacteristically poor campaign in front of goal for the club. Had Wenger decided to aim a little lower and bring in a striker who was not on the level of Benzema, he would at least have had an alternative option to use up front when his other options were failing. This was a case of Wenger opting for the perfect solution or none at all, and it just isn’t a conducive mentality to have in this era of increasingly extortionate fees.

It is with this in mind then that the arrival of Lucas Perez should be celebrated. Arsenal fans desperately wanted a world-class striker to arrive this summer, but more than that they just wanted someone to come in and offer something different to what they already had. Olivier Giroud is a good striker but has his limitations, whilst neither Alexis Sanchez or Theo Walcott look more suited as a lone striker than they do on the wings. Perez’s arrival means Wenger now has a proper alternative to Giroud and should now no longer have to rely on the services of either Chuba Akpom or – shudder – Yaya Sanogo, and whilst there is plenty of doubt over whether or not his new man will cut the mustard at the Emirates, signing him looks to be a risk worth taking. He might not sell as many shirts or score as many goals as Higuain or Griezmann might have done, but he’s here, and that’s the most important factor of all. A more pragmatic approach was needed with the amount of money being thrown around by Premier League clubs this summer and, thankfully, and at the eleventh hour, it seems that Wenger has finally admitted that. It’s about time too.

You can follow Callum on Twitter at @callumjp92.

Callum Perritt

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