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The Pepe Enigma – Is it more a question of his playing position in the team than his ability?

OFFICIAL:Nicolas Pepe Joins Arsenal for an estimated 80 million £. | KICK442

Our record signing when he joined us

 

Writing after the Southampton league game away, where Pepe scored a fine goal in a sound win, it may be harsh to call Pepe out or question his time at the club. However, as our record signing, and the poor performance of Pepe in the Cup loss at Soton, questioning him may be apt. But being honest, performances like that last night haven’t been as regular as we would like.

So despite the good goal and game overall in the league win, has he been all that in his time at Arsenal?

Should the question be asked whether he is worth it? Or whether he should stay?

I think it’s time these questions should be asked.

Talent

Pepe isn’t a bad player. He does have great dribbling and finishing, and is adept at set pieces.

Technically, he is one of our better players. And since Ozil has now left, arguably our best player at the club in this capacity. Though admittedly, Saka, Martinelli, and Smith-Rowe might argue the toss.

So whilst his quality my not up for question. his consistency certainly is.

So why hasn’t he been consistent? For me, it’s a mix between his team positioning and himself.

The goal and performance vs. Southampton showed what’s he’s capable of. But then we need to see more of it, and if he can show more, it would certainly allay the fears of many.

Positioning

Pepe often gets crowded out when he’s on the wing.
Opposition sides know his dangers, and thus he is seldom effective by just hogging the touchline like an old school 1980s or 1990s winger.

Perhaps the  thing is, old school wingers don’t exist any more. Salah, Mane, Son, Mahrez, Sterling are more wide forwards/strikers, than long-time wingers, as they play both on the wing and in the middle.
If Pepe were utilised in a more central or freer position, I think he’d be more effective. He could occupy the space between the mid and attack, drift wide and dribble when needed. This is how Salah has been an immense scorer at Liverpool, as has Mane. Even Son at Spurs plays in a similar manner, and Pepe’s deployment has let him down.

Arsenal: Nicolas Pepe explains why he has struggled since joining the club and why he is now ready to kick on | The Independent | The Independent

After two free-kick goals in the 19/20 Europa League

Both Emery and now Arteta have to take some flak here for not seeing this and correcting it accordingly.

Now, I did say that Pepe should be accountable. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes here, but then Pepe should be asking Mikel to change his position. Most players would to get the best out of their careers. We would do this in “normal” jobs, to be happier and more productive.
It may be unfair here to state this, but this has to be something Pepe needs to be doing.

Saka/Gabi

Have Saka and Martinelli’s rises overshadowed Pepe’s place?

All three play in similar positions, but Gabi has more of an eye for goal than Pepe and scores more. Saka on the other hand is more efficient with the ball, and has excelled in wide positions, as a number ten and eight, and at left-back and left wing-back.

If Saka and Gabi had not emerged as they did, would Pepe have had more time to bed in and perform?

Report: Incredible stats showing how influential Saka and Martinelli have been for Arsenal - Arsenal True Fans

Have Saka and Martinelli taken some of Pepe’s thunder and playing time?

Possibly.

Saka and Gabi are generational talents in my honest opinion. Saka could go down amongst the great Arsenal youth products – up there with George, Brady, O’Leary, Stapleton, Parlour, Rice, Thomas, the late, great Rocky Rocastle, and (dare I say it) Ashley Cole.  Gabi has the potential to rival Neymar and Marcelo as prime level Brazilian talents. Maybe even Ronaldo or Ronaldinho, who knows? Given the potential value they have, one can see why Emery and now Arteta are keen to play them regularly.

It’s not Pepe’s fault that he was signed at the time Saka and Gabi emerged. But then the timing may not have been opportune. And with more bedding in, he could have shone even more.

Price tag

Is the fact that Pepe is our record signing a factor here?
There inevitably has to be a reckoning here – and high expectation for this reason.
Ndombele at Spurs, Pogba at Man United, and Kepa at Chelsea (as then world record keeper fee) are examples of high expectations matching fees and invariably clouding perceptions. Pogba has done well of late for United, in fairness, but has been hit and miss in part due to his then world record fee in 2016.

If Pepe cost, say, £40m, would there be as much contention or questions? Possibly not. As he is our most expensive signing, and came in with great hype from Ligue 1, then it’s understandable why we would have such views on his performances.

Arsenal v Man Utd: Pogba in contention

Pogba and Pepe are both respective record signings who haven’t been consistent at either club.

Pepe has done good things in an Arsenal shirt. The free-kicks in the Europa League, and the FA Cup final performance were top notch. Auba was the rightful man of the match, but

But I’d argue that come the summer window, we may need to re-examine his long-term place at the club.

Either his position in the team is re-molded, or we accept a bid for him.

It’s unlikely that we’d get £75m for him, though 30-40m would be a reasonable fee, since he’s still young in the grand scheme.

Perception is important in all things – and perhaps the fact he is our record signing is inflating our expectations of him.

Arsenal reap rewards of Mikel Arteta's special project to unleash real Nicolas Pepe - football.london

Pepe had a wonderful game in the Cup final win vs. Chelsea.

I like Pepe. His technical ability is high, and I’d say he has been a 5/10 at Arsenal, overall.

But then I believe we do need to re-position him in the starting XI, and if this doesn’t work, then by the summer perhaps it’s time to call it quits.

I do hope he improves though, as he has the potential to light up our attack and the Premier League overall.

I want him to succeed. But this season remainder could be make or break for his long-term future at the club.

The recent win at Southampton is a guide in how to play him. He did play on the left as opposed to the right, and he has been at his best when given licence to roam the final third. His pace and trickery would scare defences as they would not be able to mark him strictly. Hopefully, he can build on this template, with the correct guidance from Arteta of course.

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