by Tony Attwood
The first thing to note about Perez is that he is on the up, and was having his best form at Deportivo, playing in a team that was struggling to score goals. He got 17. So at the most basic level the idea is probably that with Ozil pushing through perfect balls, Alexis drawing players wide on one side and Theo running them on the other, he should have opportunity and a spot of space and more chance to score.
The second thing is that he looks rather like a Vardy type player, which suggests Mr Wenger has a particular plan in mind for the team, which this type of player would make happen.
Vardy and Perez have both been late developers, (Perez is 27, the same age that Ian Wright was when he joined) and have both played in different positions – which also makes me think of Henry, and indeed RVP. OK I am not saying Perez is Henry II, but Mr Wenger does have the habit of seeing players having possibilities in other areas.
But there is also the thought that some have mentioned in passing that there could be a shift in Mr Wenger’s thinking. Not necessarily of the enormity of the shift involved in bringing Henry in and changing his position, but still a shift – of which Lucas is a part.
Giroud as we know is not fast; but if you play a fast forward in a team with Ozil who can pass through the eye of a needle, and Xhaka about to find a player running forward 30 or 40 yards away, plus Theo who can run on the wing at speed, while still having Alexis ready to cut in, then where are the defenders going to go? That is going to be the opposition’s problem – how do you defend against that sort of variety?
(Incidentally, just as an aside, I have read several times that Xhaka is the new Emmanuel Petit. I don’t buy the notion that one player can be the replica of another, but it gives you the idea of how the team is being put together).
In a recent interview with Sky that has been quoted in several other places, Mr Wenger said, “There is a theory that says to go to the absolute utmost of your talent you need to suffer in life. When you look at the Leicester team, not one career of all these players was obvious, like starting on the red carpet at 18 years of age in the Champions League.
“Many of the players have been rejected before…it is an interesting case. N’Golo Kante, nobody wanted him in France for a while. That is a good explanation for his character.” One could certainly put Koscielny in this group as well. So was Ian Wright.
So consider now the options of Xhaka. A 35 yard ball landing in front of Theo. Or ditto Perez. Or a through ball to Ozil who does the pin point pass to Alexis, or Perez, or Theo.
This is not to say that the current style of play is abandoned. This is something else to be added on top of what we already have. What to call it?
Oh, I know.
Except Arsenal don’t do Plan B. I know that cos I read it somewhere.
But there is more, because with all this running going on there is now so much more space behind for Ozil, Ramsey, Elneny to come into. Or indeed if he gets a run in the team, the Ox. Space, speed and perfect passing. It is quite a combination.
When Henry was in his prime, teams used to drop back so that Arsenal couldn’t play long balls over the defence for Henry to run on. That defensive ploy can work up to a point but it does give Ozil etc etc more time and more space.
But ultimately sides will start to work out how to deal with this, and everyone will have their instructions, positions, style. So what do we do when they start saying, “With Arsenal you drop back and have two lines of defenders to cut them off.”
We have Giroud as well, and either Giroud could come on for the last half hour and the team can play in an utterly different attacking style, or else the club could simply change the line up just at the moment of the handover of the teams to the ref one hour before. They expect Perez and get Giroud. They anticipate Theo and get the Ox.
So Perez is allowed not only to disrupt the flow of the opposition game but can disrupt the entire plans of the opposition either by being there, or handing over to Giroud – or the one that isn’t playing can come on as a sub.
We have, in fact, both cover for an injury, and a tactical change of approach. And there is still more because Perez runs at players, which means defenders have to reorganise – which always creates space for Ozil to play the ball into.
Perez can also play on the wing and can cut in. Which means that you could actually see both Perez and Giroud on the pitch at the same time with an Alexis, Giroud, Perez forward line.
In fact what we now have is a set of players who can each play in all the positions forwards take up – left wing, right wing, centre forward, number 10, across the front four positions – the idea is that they all can swap positions, confuse defenders and turn up wherever they need to.
Arsenal under Mr Wenger has been at its best where there has been a plan to work to, with back up players able to come into the team and either play to the plan or play to a recognisable plan B. It would seem that the two late transfers were the final parts of the plan slotting into place.