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Opinion

Joselu v Lucas Perez – One that slipped through the net?

5 years ago
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Lucas Perez was one of the names that featured boldly in the summer transfer window for Newcastle fans.

By the end of July, supporters had accepted that ‘big’ signings beating the 12 year old £16m transfer record were very unlikely to happen, so more realistic signings were being touted around.

With Rafa not a fan of Mitrovic and hamstring/confidence issues resurfacing for Dwight Gayle, the need for a new reasonably credible striker, was becoming critical.

Around two weeks before the opening match against Tottenham, an ‘exclusive’ claimed that Newcastle had approached Arsenal for Lucas Perez.

The (now) 29 year old was bought by Arsenal in summer 2016 on the back of his 17 goals in 35 La Liga starts for Deportivo in 2015/16, when he played alongside a certain Jonas Gutierrez.

Previous to that stand out year though for a struggling Deportivo side who finished 15th in La Liga, Lucas Perez had never before scored double figures in a league season.

Not the most distinguished of careers, Perez started off playing for Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish second tier before moving to Karpaty in the Ukraine for three seasons and then on to PAOK in Greece for only a year.

Arriving back in Spain with Deportivo, Lucas Perez scored six La Liga goals in 20 starts in 2014/15 before then the 17 goal season which attracted Arsenal’s attentions. For Arsenal he started only two Premier League games last season  and scored one goal, though he did score three goals in domestic cup competitions and a hat-trick against Basel in the Champions League.

The initial exclusive claiming Newcastle interest was then followed up by a flurry of media coverage, both in the UK and Spain, reporting on Newcastle’s interest, with the striker’s agent not shy of talking about interest in his client.

With Newcastle fans having had their sights lowered from earlier in the window and a shortage of other likely looking strikers – with at least some small level of credibility – Lucas Perez was suddenly the one Newcastle had to land.

Newcastle United’s season kicked off on 13 August with Dwight Gayle a surprise starter after his injury/confidence problems and playing only 30 minutes of the final three friendlies.

Two days later, Newcastle bought Joselu for £5m.

Lucas Perez eventually joined Deportivo on loan only 24 hours before the transfer window closed, suggesting Arsenal had been waiting for somebody to permanently take the striker off their hands, or at least pay a more significant proportion of his wages.

In Joselu, Newcastle had taken on another Spanish striker, two years younger than Lucas Perez, and with a career record of having scored double figures in a top tier league season, one time less than Perez.

So how have the two measured up against each other so far this season?

Joselu has started five Premier League matches and come off the bench in another, playing 416 league minutes and scoring two goals.

As for Lucas Perez, he has started three La Liga matches and come off the bench twice, scoring one goal in 297 minutes. Deportivo are fifteenth in the table with seven points from seven games.

It’s funny when you are wrapped up in the turmoil of the transfer window, a random player suddenly becomes the must have and you see all the positives/possibles of signing them, the fear of missing out and being left with nobody, sending everybody slightly crazy.

Joselu is no world beater but an honest player putting in a shift, his two goals may not have been classics but they have helped Newcastle to four points and his all round contribution has been decent.

Looking back, Lucas Perez is what he is – a striker with a very average career, who had one decent season and Arsenal vastly overpaid for him, then couldn’t shift him (sounds familiar…). The fact he went to a mid-table La Liga club with no competition from elsewhere, sums it up really.

Not sure what lessons we can take from this, as it is easy to say now to not get too carried away with the feeling of having to make a particular signing, but during a transfer window where once again Mike Ashley is undermining the manager, panic inevitably takes over.

No wonder Rafa Benitez was so keen to get his transfer targets in at the beginning of the window – let’s hope January is a smoother ride.
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