Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger feels sympathy for Lucas Perez over lack of Arsenal chances

Arsene Wenger has confessed his regret at the lack of opportunities he has given to striker Lucas Perez.

The Spanish forward was signed last summer to bolster Arsenal's attacking options but has found his first-team chances severely limited.

Perez has been suffering with a thigh problem in recent weeks but has not started a Premier League game for the Gunners since New Year's Day.

He has hit just a solitary league goal all season and has started only nine games in all competitions.

The former Deportivo La Caruna man told Spanish newspaper La Voz de Galicia over the weekend that he feels he should have been given more chances and revealed he had raised concerns to Wenger.

"This season has been difficult because I think I've deserved to play more," he said.

"I've spoken to the coach and he admits as much, but he has his own ideas and I respect that. I'd like more opportunities because I think I deserve them, but I'll have to accept what comes my way."

Wenger sympathised with the 29 year old, who hit a hat-trick in a Champions League win over Basle earlier in the season, and admitted he felt guilty about Perez's predicament.

"Yes, (I understand that) of course," the Frenchman said when asked about Perez's frustrations.

"He's a top-quality striker and I couldn't give him the games that he wants and that he deserves. I must confess that.

"I feel sorry for him on that front, but we have more strikers available now because we had the situation where Olivier Giroud was not clear at the start of the season.

"We didn't know when Danny Welbeck would come back and in the end there was a congestion there but that doesn't take anything away from his quality."

In his interview, Perez went on to say he would be open to a return to the Riazor if the decision was taken to leave Arsenal in the summer.

But if Wenger decides to stay on as manager of Arsenal beyond the current season, he wants to keep the £17million summer signing at the club with him.

"If I'm the manager, I would love to keep him," he added.

"We have to sit down together and see if he has a reasonable chance to play next season or not."

Perez is fit and available for Arsenal's Premier League trip to Southampton on Wednesday night after overcoming a small setback in the recovery from his thigh injury.

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