Arsene Wenger admits that Lucas Perez has been the victim of positional ‘congestion’ and feels sorry that he’s not been able to give the striker more game time this season.
The Spaniard, who signed in the summer from Deportivo La Coruna for a fee in the region of £17 million, has only made nine starts in all competitions with the manager preferring to deploy the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck up front.
Frustrated by his situation at the Emirates, Lucas told Spanish press this week that he’s eager to prove himself as a Gunner but could be lured back to Spain if it looks as though he won’t feature more regularly.
Asked about the issue ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Southampton, the boss was full of sympathy for the 28-year-old, who he admits has done well when called upon.
“He’s a top quality striker,” said Wenger. “I couldn’t give him the games he wants and that he deserves, I must confess that. I feel sorry for him on that front.
“We had more strikers available [later in the season] because we had the situation with Giroud [coming back late from EURO 2016] that was not clear at the start of the season. Welbeck…we didn’t know when and will he come back.]
“In the end there has been congestion there. It doesn’t take anything away from his quality.”
Asked what he plans to do with Lucas, the boss admitted he’ll have to hold clear the air talks in the summer although his preference remains to keep him at the club.
“I would love to [keep him]. If I am the manager I would love to keep him. We have to sit down together to see if he has a reasonable chance to play or not next season.”
Wenger also confirmed that Lucas has regained fitness after a short spell out with a thigh problem.