In Depth

Lucas Perez: The latest victim of Arsenal number nine curse

Seven months after arriving in London and the Spaniard is 'desperate' to leave

Arsenal striker Lucas Perez is reportedly "desperate" to leave the club after failing to win over manager Arsene Wenger during his seven months with the club.

The forward (pictured above) arrived from Deportivo la Coruna in a £17m deal that prompted widespread bemusement after Arsenal spent much of the summer chasing the likes of Jamie Vardy, Alexandre Lacazette, Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi.  

But in his mere 18 appearances for the Gunners, Perez has started only two Premier League games and completed 90 minutes on just five occasions. 

He appears to be the latest player to fall victim to the curse that seems to have afflicted the number nine position during Wenger's reign.

Here's how the Frenchman's other number nine's have fared: 

Paul Merson (1995-1997)

Merson was already battling addiction by the time Wenger arrived at Arsenal and his departure to lower-league Middlesbrough raised eyebrows. During the 1990s, "Merson somehow became an emblem for the game’s excesses," wrote Jonathan Liew of the Daily Telegraph last year. He was "hounded and haunted by the tabloid press, living out his struggles in the harsh glare of the public eye".

Nicolas Anelka (1997-99)

Signed from Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 17, the Frenchman and helped establish Wenger's reputation as a shrewd operator in the transfer market as he blossomed into a lethal finisher for the Gunners. 

But things turned sour and his acrimonious exit to Real Madrid after two seasons, which may netted the Gunners a £22m profit, "seemed to start the rot in terms of Arsenal number nines", says Metro

Anelka went on to earn the nickname Le Sulk. 

Davor Suker (1999-2000)

While teenager Anelka was heading to Real Madrid, 31-year-old Suker was moving in the opposite direction. However, he started only eight Premier League games for the Gunners and missed a penalty in the Uefa Cup final shoot-out against Galatasaray. He went on to join West Ham at the end of his only season at Highbury.

Francis Jeffers (2001-2003)

Billed as Arsenal's "Fox in the Box" when he signed from Everton for £8m in 2001, Jeffers' travails after being handed the vacant number nine shirt only reinforced the feeling it was cursed. He scored a mere four goals in 22 Premier League matches over two seasons before being sent back to Everton on loan and then being sold to Charlton for around a third of what he had cost.  

He was less a fox in the box and more of "a frog in a paper bag" says the Daily Mirror, rather unkindly. 

Jose Antonio Reyes (2003-2006)

Signed as a teenager in a club record deal worth £17.5m, Reyes was destined to join the ranks of those promising young players bought by Arsenal who never quite fulfilled their potential, blazing a trail for the likes of Fran Merida and Carlos Vela.  

In three seasons, he scored 23 goals in 110 appearances before heading to Real Madrid on loan. He left permanently for Atletico Madrid a year later, with the Gunners making a significant loss on their initial outlay. 

Julio Baptista (2006-7)

Arrived from Real Madrid in exchange for Reyes and managed only ten goals in 35 games, six of them in the League Cup. "He looked overweight, slow, and had poor technique. He certainly was not the player that scored 47 goals in 79 games for Sevilla," says Arsenal blog She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Eduardo (2007-2010)

Brazilian-born Croatian Eduardo, signed for £7.5m from Dinamo Zagreb, appeared to be the man capable of breaking the number nine curse. He scored 12 goals in his first 31 Arsenal appearances and was in fine form as the Gunners travelled to Birmingham in February 2008. But a horrific tackle from Martin Taylor left him with a snapped fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle. The TV replays were not for the faint-hearted. 

After being out for a year, Eduardo never really recovered from the injury and managed only nine more goals in 36 games before joining Shakhtar Donetsk. 

Park Chu Young (2011-12)

Quite why Arsenal signed the South Korean striker remains a mystery. "He made just one eight-minute long substitute appearance during his three-year Arsenal career," says the Mirror. "Shambles." 

Lukas Podolski (2012-2015)

Podolski was so influential for German side Koln that they temporarily retired his number ten shirt when he left to join Arsenal. Unfortunately he was handed the nine shirt at the Emirates and despite his best efforts, was unable to shake off the curse. 

Despite being hugely popular with the fans and making some telling interventions on the field, he never quite established himself in Wenger's plans and left under something of a cloud, farmed out to Inter Milan in January 2015, six months after he had been part of Germany's World Cup winning squad in Brazil. 

He scored 19 goals in 60 Premier League games.


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