Nicolas Pepe, Arsenals most expensive transfer coming in at £72M. That is serious money for a guy that had one good season in Ligue 1. The price tag will always be mentioned when you hear his name.
Lighting up Ligue 1
I’ve been following Nico since last year February when he was lighting up Ligue 1 with Lille, every week I’d look at the scores for Lille and there he was Nico either scoring or assisting in most games he was playing. He ended that season with 22 goals in the league and 11 assists. These stats are incredible even if it was in Ligue 1 and because of this a lot of the top clubs in Europe were keeping an eye. This included the likes of Arsenal, Napoli, Liverpool, Bayern and Manchester United.
As the weeks passed by clubs began to drop out of the race to get his signature. Bayern had scouted and considering signing him but felt like he wasn’t good enough and that says a lot, Bayern aren’t signing you unless you’re a top talent, they have serious standards. The 3 clubs it came down to were Arsenal, Napoli and Liverpool, based on what I seen through social media Liverpool were very interested but because of the how good their wingers in Mane and Salah were he would most likely be an option coming from the bench. This leaves us with Arsenal and Napoli, these two clubs have had transfer targets hijacked from both sides. No offence to Napoli but who wants to go be playing football in that backwards racist country. Living in London, playing in the Premier League, playing for the Arsenal, good wages that is attractive for any player regardless of how Arsenal are doing at the moment.
Emery’s Zaha obsession
Raul Sanllehi who was the Head of Football at the time was the one that orchestrated this deal. Unai Emery who was also manager at the time wanted Wilfried Zaha based on how he toyed with us whenever he played against us but Raul vetoed this because Pepe was seen as the future of Arsenal. Emery said “We signed Pepe. He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he need time, patience. I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt”. “Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us, incredible performances, this is the player I know and want, I met Zaha and he wanted to come”. “The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said yes but we need to win now and this lad wins games, he beat us on his own”.
When Arsenal finally signed Pepe, everyone was gassed and excited that we have another talented goal scoring winger. Pepe was asked before which defender would he be afraid to face and he said no one, if you see this guy, he can take on anyone with ease his dribbling is on another level. But what’s the use of having elite level dribbling if you can’t convert it into goals. Pepes first season was underwhelming to say the least he had glimpses to show why we signed him but majority games he was on the bench making academy minutes appearances or didn’t play at all, he’s played under 3 different managers as well and that doesn’t help. He did have a good FA Cup run as he was very influential in that run so props to him. The league is where it mattered the most, he only scored 5 goals and 6 assisted which isn’t bad but we expected more. In all comps he got 8 goals and 10 assists.
Halfway through his second season, Pepe has still yet to fully secure a starting spot but he’s starting to shine in that LW spot because Saka has taken over the RW. In my opinion he needs a run of games and this was shown when he scored in back-to-back games coming from the left. Arteta can coach him into a player capable of terrorizing defences as he did with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. That’s all I have to say on Nicolas Pepe, Arteta has to show him love and care and start him consistently and Pepe will repay him back.
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