web analytics

Yes, Nicolas Pepe will be special

Nicolas Pepe has endured a turbulent first year at Arsenal. But the winger has shown enough to prove that he will be special once he figures it all out.

It has not been the ideal first season at Arsenal that new signing Nicolas Pepe would have been hoping for when he arrived. Costing a club-record £72 million, after notching north of 20 goals and 10 assists for Lille last year, the only player not named Lionel Messi to do so in a top-five European league, expectations were high, to say the least. Pepe has not met them.

The Ivorian showed encouraging signs in his first few matches under Unai Emery. His pace was clear to see, he showed of his tremendous dribbling ability and skill on the ball, and he scared defenders whenever he received possession. Even Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk were afraid to get too tight. But the production was lacking, and as his drought in front of goal continued, so his confidence seeped away, his performances declined, and the worries grew.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

His early struggles led many to write Pepe off entirely. A wasted investment, someone who was never going to live up to their price tag. He was widely viewed as a talented but ultimately lacking and flawed player.

However, such rash and rushed judgements were never fair. Yes, his lacklustre showings were concerning, but they did not resign him to being unfulfilled. The adaptation period can be long and arduous, as many foreign players have experienced in the past. And more recently, Arsenal have started to uncover the real Pepe.

He was very dangerous against Brighton, scoring a terrific goal as he bent his finish into the far corner. He then played a more inverted role against Sheffield United at the weekend. He scored the opening goal with an excellent penalty and was the most involved in general play that he has ever been. He enjoyed this more central, free-roaming position.

In his post-match press conference following the 2-1 victory, head coach Mikel Arteta was asked about the recent improvements that Pepe has made and what that may mean for his future. He did not hold back:

Want your voice heard? Join the Pain In The Arsenal team!

Write for us!

“I’m very excited about what he can bring (in the future) and what he’s bringing to the team this season. I think he’s made a click and I think he realises what he needs to do for the team when we don’t have the ball. I’m so pleased today, you’ve seen his defensive actions were incredible with what he’s doing, and then with the ball he gives us that creativity and flair that we need and big teams need. He’s always unpredictable with what can happen when he’s got the ball at his feet, so I think he’s [heading] in the right direction.”

Pepe has improved mightily under Arteta. In his last six Premier League appearances, he has three goals and three assists. On the season, he now has eight goals and eight assists. Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been directly involved in more goals this season. Given the circumstances — playing for a midtable team, dealing with three different managers, adapting to a new league, club and country — they are not poor numbers at all.

Next: Arsenal Vs Sheffield United: 5 things we learned

Pepe has not exploded onto the scene like many hoped and even expected he would. But quietly, he has enjoyed a very encouraging first season at Arsenal. And as he continues to improve and click under Arteta, he will only impact matches more. Pepe will be special.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *