Arsene Wenger claims he would "love" to keep Lucas Perez at Arsenal this summer – provided he is still in charge of the club. The unsettled Spaniard has struggled to make a discernible impact since arriving at the Emirates Stadium from Deportivo La Coruna in August 2016, starting just twice in the Premier League and not featuring at all since March's 5-0 FA Cup quarter-final thrashing of Lincoln City.
Such a lack of regular first-team opportunities has understandably irked Perez – now back in training following an injury setback and available to face Southampton on Wednesday evening (10 May. He expressed those frustrations during a recent interview with La Voz de Galicia, in which he admitted that he could be open to a return to the Estadio Riazor. AC Milan have also been linked with a possible £17m ($21.9m) swoop for the 28-year-old.
Asked if he understood Perez's frustrations during a press conference held before the trip to St Mary's, an apologetic Wenger was quoted as saying by football.london: "Yes of course. He is a top quality striker. I couldn't give him the games he wants and deserves. I must confess that and I feel sorry for him on that front.
"But we had more strikers available because we had the situation that [Olivier] Giroud was not clear at the start of the season, [Danny] Welbeck we didn't know when he would come back. So in the end there was a congestion there. It doesn't take anything away from his quality.
"I would love to [keep Perez at Arsenal]. If I am the manager, I would love to keep him. We would have to sit down together to see if he has a reasonable chance to play next season."
We are in a strong financial situation
It has been suggested that Arsenal's summer transfer plans and the futures of both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could hinge on the club, currently sixth and six points adrift of Manchester City with a game in hand, maintaining their run of 21 successive top-four finishes in the Premier League. However, Wenger believes that their business would only be affected in the event that any potential Champions League absence is prolonged.
"Not really because we are in a strong financial situation and the weight of the Champions League today is less big than it was years ago," he said. "But for me it's important because you want to play at the top level, and the top level is the Champions League. Financially it will not have a huge impact negotiations wise but we want to play against the best and that's the Champions League.
"It can impact if you are not in there for a longer spell. Will it impact us I don't know, at the moment we are not in that mode because we want to qualify and we want to give ourselves a chance to be in there."