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No rep? No profile? Who cares! Why Lucas Perez will be Arsenal star

COMMENT: Lucas Perez. He's the one Gooners. No caps. No pedigree. But if any of the £90 million worth of talent Arsenal have signed are going to make a difference, it'll be him.

Yeah, Shkodran Mustafi was the one who dominated headlines. Granit Xhaka the one fans celebrated prising from Borussia Monchengladbach. But it's going to be Lucas... by the end of the season, he'll be the one we're all talking about.

First, some humble pie. Arsene Wenger did spend over the summer - a very decent outlay of £90 million. And he did so on the spine of the team. A striker. A midfielder. And two centre-halves. Even his most ardent critics must confess - the Gunners leave the transfer window much, much stronger than they entered it.

Mustafi is a good, solid centre-back with his best years ahead of him. Xhaka a proven leader with a game well-suited to the Premier League. Rob Holding? Well, he could be anything. And what about the little known lad from La Coruna?

No caps - at any level - for Spain. A career spent as much outside La Liga in Ukraine and Greece as inside Spain. A player who cost Deportivo La Coruna less than a million quid a year ago. And now he's a Gooner for £17 million. Erm, not exactly the cv of champions...

But sometimes, a player just needs that break. Sometimes it isn't ability that forces a footballer to Eastern Europe to eke out a living. It's just circumstance. Luck. It's why it took Yannick Bolasie to travel the non-leagues and Malta before eventually landing at Goodison Park and Everton. Perez is the same.

So why so bullish? Well, it's not so much the 17 goals last season - though that helps. Nor his attributes - the pace, the finishing - being so similar to Jamie Vardy's. What swings it was Barcelona's interest.

Y'see, while Lucas will be facing Jose Fonte and Southampton on Saturday, he could easily have been training this week with Lionel Messi and co at La Masia. Barca had been in contact with Lucas and his minders since the end of last season. For Robert Fernandez, Barca's sports director, he ticked all the right boxes as they sought a fourth striker to complement the MSN of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Left-sided. Adaptable. Rapid. And with a clear finishing ability. Lucas would fit perfectly inside the La Masia culture. And Robert's scouting reports went further: outstanding in one-on-one situations. Devastating inside the opposition area. On the playing front, Lucas was well qualified.

Off the pitch, the positives again flowed: at 27 and with his life experience, Lucas could handle the expectations of being a Barca player. His character would enhance the locker room. And after speaking with the player, Robert was convinced.

That call was made at the beginning of the summer market. Robert had made clear to Lucas that he wasn't first choice on their shopping list. Kevin Gameiro, then of Sevilla, and Atletico Madrid's Luciano Vietto were the priorities. And if he did arrive, he would strictly be cover for the MSN. But Lucas took it in his stride. He knew where he stood and assured Robert he would be willing to wait.

In the end, Barca went with Paco Alcacer. It made better sense to dip into next year's budget to convince Valencia to sell, than match Arsenal in meeting Lucas' €20 million buyout clause. But that's not to say Wenger had a clear run at the Spaniard.

Again, after all the barbs of the summer, it must be noted that Arsenal saw off stiff competition to land Lucas. Sevilla, after essentially swapping Gameiro for Vietto, still wanted an extra forward and had plans for Lucas. Everton, whom in the end were Arsenal's nearest challenger, had been talking with the striker's camp for weeks. And in terms of Steve Walsh, who had left his director's post at Leicester City to join Everton, it had been months. But Arsenal - after meeting his buyout clause - were still able to convince Lucas to choose London over Liverpool.

So now Wenger has his striker. Similar to Vardy? Yes. Even similar Carlos Bacca? Again, yes. And while Depor aren't regarded as a launching pad for future world-beaters, it's worth reminding that another striker, a hero in La Coruna, left Depor for a bigger club and a bigger league at a similar price several years ago.

The club? Bayern Munich. The player? Roy Makaay.

CV's don't make a player. It's about the here and now. If he's good enough for Barca, Lucas Perez can prove himself good enough for Arsenal - and the Premier League.


INJURY TIME

Just leave 'im alone, will ya! Jack and Bournemouth. Just let them get on with it.

We should be celebrating this decision by Jack Wilshere. He's effectively humbled himself. Recognising he needs to take a step back in order to make two jumps forward. English football should be applauding Wilshere for this decision.

Instead, it's all doom and gloom. Make or break. Why Bournemouth? Why now? Is it really all over for the best since Gazza?

C'mon. Just leave him alone and let him play. This is a brave decision by Wilshere. Perhaps the bravest we've seen from an English player of his status for some years. We should all be getting behind him. Not writing him off.

Just let him get on with it.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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