Nicolas Pep retained his starting spot against Manchester City and the Arsenal man’s improvements have gone in a new direction.
Nicolas Pepe has built a very specific brand for himself for Arsenal. Through the acclimation, we have seen his prowess grow and improve, but for the most part, his calling card is creativity, a stupendous left foot, and the innovation this attack sorely needs.
Honestly, I was fine with just that. That’s exactly what we needed. We needed someone who could take the ball and create from nothing, someone who could give us another threat to goal. The fact that he’s become one of our top two goal-scoring threats is the icing on the cake. I could have waited another year for him to grow into that.
But against Manchester City, we saw a different Nicolas Pepe. He wasn’t particularly creative or innovative, though he did have a part to play in both goals, including a perfect pass on the first goal. He didn’t even take a shot. He only completed one dribble. Nothing special here other than the assist.
What he did prove to be was incredibly industrious. He has not been a very active defender, nor has he proven to be that much of an effort-driven guy.
Granted, he’s no slouch, but he’s not one of your harder workers.
Against City, he was. His defensive work rate was tremendous. The man was going up and down the pitch, covering so much ground, helping Hector Bellerin on the defense, slipping into the midfield to help defend—he was doing it all.
I know, it’s just one match, and that’s nothing that can change the entire stock of a player. But now that we’ve seen it once, we know that he’s capable of it. And we also know that Mikel Arteta knows he can do it.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if this performance wasn’t especially inspired by Arteta and his want to play complete football at every position.
Again, Pepe was no slouch in that department. He’s a hard worker. But it was a whole different level against City. Maybe, just maybe, this is yet another notch that we can expect to see Pepe aspire to.
It’s not even like he needed it. I already felt like the record price tag was vindicated by his creativity alone, but hey, if he wants to start turning into an engine, working both sides of play, all the better.