If Nicolas Pépé can turn the magic on, Arsenal could be terribly dangerous.
And we should expect something along those lines from the Ivorian winger for the coming season; Nicolas Pépé was a real dangerman at Lille and can be so again at Arsenal.
After all, that is why he was brought in in the first place. Unai Emery got the Gunners to splash out a massive sum for the winger, only to see him get off to a forgettable start upon the new Premier League campaign.
But over the months, a new manager, the suspension of play, its resumption and eventual strong finish, Pépé began to shine more frequently. It is still not where he nor Mikel Arteta wish for the process to be, but the process is certainly afoot nonetheless.
Nicolas Pépé and the Process Afoot
Pépé grew more comfortable with time, and his skill and ability returned with it. His free kicks and cut-ins from just outside the 18-yard box helped the Gunners on multiple occasions over the later match weeks.
For Pépé, it must be about doing it, showing the ability and tenacity, the courage, to do what must be done all the time. Consistency in other words; without it, he will never be able to make the impact he desires for Arsenal.
While the player has more time under his belt, more time alongside his teammates and more time in London in general, other factors present themselves to help Pépé grow further this season. One factor in particular is Willian; he is a consummate professional and one that every player can learn from.
But for the wingers? It is a treat and a lesson every day I’m sure. The Brazilian knows how to win silverware and he knows how to prepare to do it; think David Luiz but up the pitch some and a bit less comedy prone.
Mikel Arteta: Someone at Arsenal to Believe In
Another major factor I believe, is that Arsenal now believe in their manager. Unai Emery gave consistently inconsistent messaging; from tactics, to lineups, to discipline and resolve when things became downtrodden.
But Arteta offers innovation, consistent messaging and positioning, as well as tactics with clear purpose. For Nicolas Pépé, this is the best remedy for an early Arsenal spell without real guidance. That guidance can be seen in certain off pitch innovations recently as well.
From his promotion in title, to the reports suggesting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be remaining and re-signing, to the proclamations of both Alexandre Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi. Everyone can feel something is brewing, and it’s not anything like what had been cooking previously at London Colney.
This energy is infectious, and were it to take grip over some of the team’s most talented players, one can only now dream of the innovation. Pépé sits firmly in those dreams, but they may soon be reality; with the right ambition and effort, the player will see still greater play time and tangible evidence of success as well.
Should Mikel Arteta be able to coax this level and form out of Nicolas Pépé, the rotation and attacking IQ will be simply off the charts. He has his pick, even while trying to restock during this summer window.
Nicolas Pépé: Piece of the Puzzle, Although an Admittedly Large Piece
With Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah switching off as number nines, Arsenal have experience and youth hounding and probing the backline of every defense.
Wingers like Aubameyang on one side, Pépé on the other, spelled by subs like a healthy Gabriel Martinelli and a motivated Willian, offer the Gunners all they can ask for. Arsenal can offer a perfect mixture of youth and experience out wide at any time of any match.
With the innovations we see, and hope to see, in the middle of the pitch, alongside the aforementioned offensive participation, players like Pépé can simply expect to see greater service, more fluidity, as well as greater consistency in building positive offensive play.
His aggressiveness and ability to convert in those moments will really help to determine how far Arsenal can go this season. While I believe a top four position is sincerely doable, as well as some silverware, players like Pépé must take advantage of this roster, this manager, as well as any other personnel innovations the team might perform still.
Should he do so, the team will be difficult to arrest; with Auba, Laca and Pépé, the attack will truly be as awesome and fierce as its was expected to be going into last season. Arteta is not Unai Emery, and 2020 is certainly not 2019. He just needs to wrestle Willian out of the starting lineup…