Nicolas Pepe made his Nice debut in a loss to Marseille this weekend after completing his loan move from Arsenal this week, and his performance didn’t go as planned.
The winger fell down the pecking order at the Emirates after joining from Lille for a club record fee back in 2019, with the emergence of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli in north London, and the decision was made to allow him to leave in search of regular playing time this summer.
After joining Nice on loan until the end of the current campaign, he was named in the starting line-up to take on Les Bleus, a club who have also worked with the Gunners previously including allowing Nuno Tavares to spend the current season with them, and the Portuguese went head-to-head down the flank for the Ivory Coast star’s debut for his new side.
Our full-back got the better of the forward on a number of occasions, and his new boss Lucien Favre was asked to comment on his first outing for his side.
‘He’s got to get back into the swing of things. He hasn’t played for a long time in England,” Favre said (via the Metro).
‘He did his pre-season with Arsenal but didn’t play a match, so he lacks a bit of rhythm and intensity tracking back, in the pressing and recovering the ball, because that’s what everyone has to do, there are no exceptions.
‘If one or two players don’t do the job, the whole team has a problem. Everyone has to do it at the same time, defend together to get the ball back and then play.’
He added: ‘We have to be ready, we are professionals. Winning the ball back is important in any sport.’
Pepe has underwhelmed for a while now, despite showing promise with some sporadic displays, but they were too far apart to warrant regular playing time in our side.
It will be interesting to see what level he can return to once he gets back into the swing of things back in France this term, but I would be shocked if he was to return to play under Mikel Arteta at the end of his return.
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