Arsenal Transfer News: Latest Rumours on Riyad Mahrez and Lucas Perez

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 26: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on April 26, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Riyad Mahrez reportedly expects to be available for transfer this summer, with the Algerian winger expecting Leicester City to honour a promise to sell him. Arsenal are among the interested parties, along with north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, per Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph.

Law described an agreement between the Foxes and Mahrez to have the wide man stay for one more season after Leicester's stunning Premier League title win in 2016: "Mahrez believes that he has honoured his side of the bargain after giving Leicester another season following their Premier League title success, as former manager Claudio Ranieri requested."

Now the Gunners may look to take advantage of this deal, per the report: "North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal are both on the lookout for a wide player this summer and are likely to renew their interest in Mahrez, who Leicester value at more than £30 million."

Law also detailed how this wouldn't be the first time Arsenal have shown an interest in Mahrez: "Arsenal looked at Mahrez last summer before he decided to sign a new contract at Leicester that runs until 2020 and is not thought to include a buy-out clause."

Mahrez reportedly expects Leicester to let him go this summer.
Mahrez reportedly expects Leicester to let him go this summer.Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Signing Mahrez is an idea worth revisiting for the Gunners, especially if they stick with the 3-4-1-2 formation manager Arsene Wenger has deployed recently. Arsenal have won four of their last five matches across two competitions since Wenger switched the Gunners to three at the back.

Those results have Arsenal still in with a slim chance of finishing in the top four in the Premier League and qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League. Wenger's men have also reached this season's FA Cup final.

If the formation is here to stay, Arsenal will need a wide player with pace, trickery and creativity to lend some true fluidity to the forward line. Fortunately, Mahrez fits the bill as a mercurial wing wizard comfortable playing on the left or right flank, as well as in a No. 10 role.

His wand of a left foot can both score and provide goals, with his dual attacking talents key to Leicester's improbable title triumph a season ago. Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year award for 2016 after scoring 17 goals and providing 11 assists in the league.

Mahrez could help replace some key figures at Arsenal.
Mahrez could help replace some key figures at Arsenal.Michael Regan/Getty Images

He hasn't been quite as effective this term, but the 26-year-old has still found the net 10 times and chipped in with five assists in all competitions, per WhoScored.com.

Mahrez would give the Gunners more width along the forward line. He could also help offset the potential loss of Alexis Sanchez, who is out of contract in 2018 and has been heavily linked with Bayern Munich.

     

Arsenal Boss Wants Little-Used Striker to Stay

Wenger has revealed he would like little-used striker Lucas Perez to stay. In fact, the Gunners boss is planning to discuss the Spaniard's future in the summer, per Thomas Bristow of the Daily Mirror: "He's a top quality striker but I couldn't give him the games he wants and deserves, I confess that. I feel a bit sorry for him. If I am the manager I would love to keep him but we have to sit down and see if he has a realistic chance to play."

Wenger's words come after Perez appeared to hint he's ready to return to old club Deportivo La Coruna after a frustrating season with the Gunners, per Spanish source La Voz de Galicia (h/t Michael Cantillon of Sky Sports).

Wenger wants Perez to stay at Arsenal beyond this season.
Wenger wants Perez to stay at Arsenal beyond this season.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

The main issue has been playing time, with Perez making just two starts in England's top flight, according to Cantillon. Frankly, it's surprising 28-year-old Perez hasn't received more playing time.

After all, he boasts pace, intelligent movement, quality technique and clever touches in and around the box. Perez has proved the latter quality at times this season, most notably when his deft backheel set up strike partner Olivier Giroud to score a late winner against Preston North End in the FA Cup third round in January.

Perez also scored a vital hat-trick away to FC Basel to help Arsenal qualify as group winners for the Champions League last 16.

Yet, for all his quality, James Benge of the London Evening Standard believes the striker Arsenal signed late in the summer transfer window, only after rejecting the chance earlier, always faced an uphill battle to convince Wenger.

However, Tim Stillman of Football.London believes other factors have left Perez short of match minutes this season. Among them, Stillman identified Sanchez's transition to a central role, as well as Danny Welbeck's return from injury, as decisive in keeping Perez on the outside looking in.

Strikers like Welbeck and Sanchez have kept Perez on the bench.
Strikers like Welbeck and Sanchez have kept Perez on the bench.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Even so, Stillman dubbed Perez a "short-term signing," one who has met his purpose: "Lucas was a £17m safeguard that has probably fulfilled his purpose, even if he does leave in the summer."

Selling Lucas and adding an attacker as versatile as Mahrez would be a bold way for Arsenal to remake their forward line this summer. Such decisions may not be easy to avoid if attacking talisman Sanchez also leaves.