The demolition of Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup finally gave Arsenal fans an insight into the thinking behind the signing of Spanish forward Lucas Perez.
The 28-year-old scored twice and assisted a third in a memorable performance that at last gave fans a glimpse of what he is all about, and just how he might slot into the team in the weeks and months ahead.
Perez’s Arsenal career began in a debut performance at Southampton that was, by general consensus, a subdued affair. Such was the performance of the team that Perez was horribly isolated up front and largely starved of service as Arsenal struggled to make inroads into a staid Saints defence.
Since the mauling at the hands of PSG, however, the team has clearly re-assessed how it wants to play and, as a result, the last two performances have seen the lone striker system prove much more effective.
Against Hull, Alexis Sanchez was provided with greater support from midfield and bagged himself two goals. Again on Tuesday night, the midfield played far closer to the striker, and continued to make clever runs in support, allowing Lucas to bag a brace.
It is no coincidence that a change in style has almost immediately borne fruit in attack.
Arsene has taken plenty of stick for persisting with the lone striker system but, when the supporting tactics are right, it is a system that clearly has merit.
More importantly, it is a system that seems to play to the strengths of Perez.
The Spaniard showed the sort of pace, power and persistence that saw Jamie Vardy turn heads in the summer and the similarity between the two, particularly in how Perez scored his second goal, was marked.
Given the initial overture for Vardy, and the subsequent move for Perez, it’s clear that pace and power were traits that Arsene felt he wanted in his striker for this season.
It was excellent to see the strength used by the former Deportivo front man to ease the Forest defender off the ball, and the subsequent determination to force his way past the goalkeeper and squeeze the ball into the net. There was even time for a little bit of afters with a forgettable clown of a defender who thought it appropriate to leave a bit of fist in the challenge.
It has been an age since I have seen such a combative and aggressive performance from an Arsenal striker, at least in such a way that is measured and doesn’t involve an idiotic red card.
Perez arrived with a reputation for mixing it with defenders and he certainly imposed himself at Forest.
Of course, there was a gulf in class between Arsenal and the hosts and the real tests lie ahead for Perez, but it’s hard to fault his effort on the night. If anything, it would have been nice to see him bury one of the two presentable chances he had for his hat-trick.
Whether he will be trusted to do more of the same against Chelsea at the weekend remains to be seen, however. With his pace, you would wager that he would relish the challenge of Gary Cahill and the lumbering corpse of John Terry, but those two will prove a far sterner test physically than the Forest pair.
Personally, I think Arsene should persist with the system that has proved superbly effective in the last few games.
If they can press as a unit, win the ball back high up the pitch, and expose the ageing Chelsea defence to Perez’s pace, I fancy them to cause real problems in attack.
But consistency of performance will be the key. In the past, Arsenal have happened upon a winning formula, stuck with it for a period of four or five games, and then reverted to a sort of chaotic mess of a system thereafter, producing the kind of frustrating performances that make fans so angry.
In Perez, they appear to have a striker who thrives on playing in a certain way. Let’s make the most of what he offers.