With Lucas Perez in the news recently regarding his future at Arsenal, the situation seems very familiar with Arsenal fans. Fans have been calling for Lucas to be included in the Gunners’ starting line-up after making very notable appearances when called upon by Arsene Wenger. This season the Spaniard has 7 goals and assisted 3 goals in 18 games (9 sub appearances) for the club and is the only Arsenal player to score in every competition. So why is this such a familiar theme for Arsenal fans?
Since moving to The Emirates Arsene Wenger has never seemed to give his number 9’s regular game time despite their quality, so what is the problem with the number nine shirt at Arsenal? With every new number 9 that has graced N5 they have always seemed to be better when arriving at the club than when they left or how they performed. Looking back the ‘curse’ of the number 9 has seemed to affect each of them one way or another whether that was though injury or lack of game time.
Starting in 2006, the first year at the Emirates it’s fair to say that season’s inclusion at number 9, Julio Baptista who was on loan from Real Madrid, would’ve had to produce miracles to get into the team ahead of Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor but he wasn’t far off at times. Scoring 10 goals that season the Brazilian acted as an effective deputy to Arsenal’s two star men up front. Performances like his four goal riot against Liverpool in the League Cup that year would make the case for him to get more chances. Baptista was mostly used in the League Cup even in the final that year when Arsenal lost 2-1 to Chelsea.
With Baptista return to Madrid the Gunners brought in the beloved Eduardo from Dynamo Zagreb in the summer of 2007. The season looked promising for Arsenal and the Brazilian-born-Croat with him racking up 12 goals before he was hit with THAT injury against Birmingham City. With Eduardo’s form picking up this virtually destroyed Arsenal’s title hopes that year as the number nine curse struck again. In his three years at the club he provided numerous magical moments including his outrageous volley against Burnley but unfortunately he couldn’t force his way to becoming a regular in the team after the injury.
A few years later and Arsenal seemed to make a great signing in Lukas Podolski. Most would’ve thought the proven German would be played as a striker because of his rocket of a left foot. But similar to Lucas he was mostly played out on the left and didn’t look to be one of Wenger’s favourites during his time at the club. Hardly ever getting game time along with playing out of position it was hard for him to build up much form and like Eduardo and Perez the Emirates only saw glimpses of his brilliance.
Podolski’s lack of involvement at the club could have been because of Olivier Giroud, who is looking to reach a century of goals for the club, currently being on 93. With the two being bought in the same summer only one could start regularly with Wenger more often than not opting for Giroud. The Frenchman currently splits opinion with Gooners on whether he should start as the main striker at the moment but has shown he is as effective coming off the bench numerous times this season. Giroud is also the third fastest player to reach 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal (113 games) behind Thierry Henry (83 games) and Ian Wright (87 games).
Coming back to the present issue with Lucas Perez it seems like problems these former Arsenal forwards faced have all hit him during his short time at the club. The 28-year-old has been injured three times over the course of this season but luckily not as badly as Eduardo. Along with injuries Lucas has been forced to play in wider positions rather than as a striker. With the likes of Sanchez, Giroud and now Welbeck the competition for places may be too much for him to fit into the starting 11 as a striker.
But with Iwobi being so young it may be better to get a more experienced player like Lucas playing regularly on the left wing rather than relying on a 20 year old. Even though the young Nigerian is a promising talent it is possible that Wenger could be over playing him at his young age. Playing the youngster week in week out may have been understandable if he was performing outstandingly but with only four goals this season it’s hard to see a reason why he would start over Lucas Perez.