Arsenal resume their Premier League action after the international break with a faceoff against Claude Puel’s Southampton on Saturday. This will be the first time when the two new signings in Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi would be available to the Arsenal boss. While Mustafi being drafted straight into the team is a no-brainer, there’s a dilemma over who should feature up top for the Gunners. Will it be Olivier Giroud or Lucas Perez?
Against Southampton, Wenger would be tempted to start with Perez but it will depend a whole lot on the kind of position he will be playing in. In the position of the lone striker, it would be unlikely that Perez would feature against Southampton from the start. The Arsenal manager will allow him some time to get the feel of the English game at first. For that very reason, there can be a lot of possibilities how the Spaniard will be featuring on Saturday. Ideally, Wenger should start with Giroud up top in his familiar role.
The Frenchman has had a good little break and looks to be back in touch with his 8th strike in his 11th international game this year for the Les Blues. On the other hand, Perez in his last match also scored a goal and assisted another one for Deportivo. It means that both the players are on form but Giroud is far better acquainted with the game in the Premiership which will be the key on Saturday.
Perez can feature on the left wing but with Alexis in the team, it isn’t going to be happening anytime soon. The only option where the player can start is if Wenger decides to play 2 up top. Perez can function well if being partnered with Giroud as they will complement each other with their attributes. With the France international up top, Arsenal create a lot more chances than usual as the towering front man wins the bulk of the headers and is excellent in creating spaces for the others with his movement. The problem arises from the fact that when Giroud creates the chances the Gunners lack someone with the finishing abilities to bury them or be a bit clinical. Perez would be the perfect solution to that kind of problem.
Finally, it seems that Wenger can opt for the safest option and that is to bring Perez into the game in the second half from the bench. He can replace Giroud up top and utilise his pace when the game is a bit more stretched and there are some tired legs on the pitch. Southampton boss Puel is known for his ability to provide a stern test for his oppositions and takes special pride in turning the tables on oppositions with greater resources. He would be wanting to create all sorts of problems for his fellow countryman Wenger.
It is going to be a very good test for the Arsenal side as well and having options on the bench would be a great thing to have. Perez can thus play a vital role in the match and it would be a great way to get his first lesson and feel of the Premier League.
Arka Tarun Mukherjee
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