The Perplexing Case of Nicolas Pepe by Joe Allyson
Hey. Arsenal are in a nice way to head into the international break.
Before the last game, a whole lot of people were complaining about the lack of return as regards Nicolas Pepe, especially considering he’s the most expensive Arsenal player of all time.
Now, I’d understand the concern, and I actually think he should be delivering more. But then again, I also understand that humans at times tend to not be consistent, and sometimes, productivity can drop. This, however, does not mean that one cannot get back again to the lofty standards that were once portrayed.
When Arsenal signed Pepe, the excitement among the Arsenal fan base was not unfounded. We’d just signed a young player who’d just set the Ligue One alight, only being bettered by Kylian Mbappe, and yet now he looks average.
I think this is best explained starting with his style of play. Dribblers have many unique styles. Some tricky ones, like CR7, Nani and Santi Cazorla, tend to use trickery and a short burst of pace to get away from their opponents without giving them an opportunity to challenge for the ball. Then others, like Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Eden Hazard, try to draw their opponents in with the illusion of being trapped (it can also be referred to as stalling a defender), and this is where I’d class Pepe He has a more than common tendency to stop and face his marker(s) convincing them that they have him locked down, before he uses his close control and body strength to wriggle a way out.
Now we must admit that since Alekandr Hleb, we have not had a dribbler capable of drawing 3 or 4 opposition defenders and leaving them in his wake, and while it’s frustrating when he tries it and gets caught every now and again, we must admit that we all relish the time when such a skill will come in handy. Let’s face it. Alexis Sanchez for all his skill (he was a damn good dribbler), did not possess the ability to tiptoe his way into and then out of a crowd of 3-4-5 defenders and there are games where we actually needed someone with the ability to do that.
The fact that even with his confidence low, he will still try and dribble is testament to his self-belief, and despite the fact that I gnash my teeth every time he needlessly loses the ball, I actually feel good about the fact that he still tries to beat his man, because truth is I’ve watched too many Arsenal games where opponents simply sit deep and let us pass the ball outside their box, knowing full well nobody in the squad has the skillset to get into that box and cause trouble.
Let’s just hang in there and believe with him in his ability. If he believes he can do it, then he will do it.