Lucas Perez is ready to kickstart his Arsenal career after returning from his ankle injury during the EFL Cup 2-0 defeat to Southampton on Wednesday night (30 November). The Spanish striker couldn't hide his disappointment with the final result but told IBTimes UK about his joy for having been able to comeback sooner than expected in a bid to help the Gunners to fight for the Premier League title.
The 28-year-old number nine joined Arsenal during the summer transfer window in a deal worth £17m ($21.5m) after proving to be one of the revelations of La Liga during the 2016-2017 campaign, scoring 17 goals and setting up a further 10 to help Deportivo la Coruna to avoid the relegation.
However, the Spaniard saw his introduction to the Premier League hampered by an ankle injury sustained during the EFL Cup fourth-round victory over Reading on 25 October. Medical test later confirmed the worst for the Arsenal striker as he was ruled out for between six and eight weeks, meaning that he was not going to be back available until early or mid-December.
But only five weeks later the Spaniard managed to complete the 90 minutes in the EFL Cup encounter with Southampton. Lucas was obviously upset with the defeat but took a positive from the game as the ankle responded well.
"I'm happy for the ankle. Because I was told I was going to be out for between six and eight weeks and I'm back sooner. Playing 90 minutes is good but obviously I'm sad to lose 2-0 at home," Lucas told IBTimes UK after the game.
"The only positive of the game is that the ankle responded very well. But on a personal level I didn't play well. I was bad. That's all I can say. The team did not find our best game either. Southampton are a very strong team. I already noticed in my (Premier League) debut. Then we won 2-1 but I already realised how strong they are."
Lucas thanked Arsene Wenger and Arsenal for giving him permission to return to his homeland in La Coruna to make the rehabilitation. Yet, he believes that it played a key role in his early comeback.
"The club have treated me really well since the very first day. They understood my situation and let me go back home to recover. That made the things easier to comeback sooner than expected. Being able to communicate in my language with the physios and doctors facilitated the rehabilitation," Lucas stated while also hailing the great reception given by the other Spanish speakers at Arsenal like Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin or Nacho Monreal.
"When you have people from your country communication is much easier. They have helped me a lot during the injury but also before, to adapt to the city and the club. I am little by little setting into the town."
The joy about his new life in the Premier League turned to dissatisfaction when asked about the defeat to Southampton. Lucas admitted that Arsenal were just below the par but played down suggestions that they missed too much the big stars like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and his compatriot Cazorla.
"There were many changes in the starting 11. It is logical (that we missed Ozil, Alexis and Cazorla) because you always miss the great players. But now we can not do anything but keep working. We are just as disappointed as the fans. I understand that they are sad but we can only continue working to improve," he said. "It's obvious that the team are not playing as well as we did at the beginning of the season, when we beat Chelsea, but we have to trust in this team because we have a great level."
Yet, Lucas has urged his Arsenal teammates to respond to the disappointment with a victory over West Ham on Saturday as he is convinced that the Gunners have what it takes to win the Premier League title this term.
"The game at West Ham is a must win." Lucas added. "We have to win to keep in the fight for the league. I am convinced that this year we can get something very good in the Premier League. I think we can fight to win the title."