Pepe could become the lethal striker Arsenal need

Pepe Can Be a Lethal Striker For Arsenal by Goonerboy

Arsenal tremendously broke their transfer record in the summer of 2019 by signing Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pépé for a mouth-watering fee of £72m. The 24-year-old forward had a fantastic breakout campaign for Lille in the previous season scoring 22 goals and contributing 11 assists in Ligue 1 from the right-wing. Having been linked with some of the biggest clubs in the world such as Bayern Munich and Manchester United, the Gunners were able to secure the signing of Pépé – one that was supposed to help propel Arsenal back into the Champions League.

However, Arsenal had a turbulent 2019/20 campaign as they had three different managers at the helm. Coinciding with Arsenal’s poor form was Pépé’s underwhelming debut campaign, wherein he only contributed to 14 goals in 32 games in all competitions. Having arrived with much fanfare, he has only shown glimpses of his superb quality albeit in an unbalanced squad and a team that lacked a clear playing style under Unai Emery.

This tactical analysis will take a look at the 24-year-old’s scout report and how he excelled at Lille, and then we will discuss the tactics that Arteta can implement to help Pépé flourish in England

First, we will take a look at Pépé’s playing style and some of his best traits to understand what makes him tick at a deeper level.

One of the Ivorian’s best attributes is his electric dribbling. He ranks 5th in the Premier League in dribbles attempted per game with 7. However, he does only complete 40% of his dribbles, which is a low percentage especially given his quality in this area. It is worth noting that he did also have a relatively low success rate of 44% at Lille. The reason why his success rates have dropped compared to last season is due to the slight change of role at Arsenal and the difference in playing style between the two teams.

Under Christophe Galtier, he was predominantly tasked with attacking in the final third and thus, opposition players were under greater pressure to get the tackle correct. Lille also played a counter-attacking brand of football, meaning that Pépé had much more space to work with. At Arsenal, he usually progresses the attack from a deeper position and the Gunners usually come up against teams playing a deep-block, which results in less space for Pépé to get past the opposition defenders.

Dribbling, when used correctly and within context, is a powerful tactic in all stages of the match. When analysing Pépé, we can see that he uses his dribbling in different situations and with a different purpose. With that in mind, we can see him dribble to either fuel the build-up and progress the play or create chances and be a direct threat to the opposition’s goal.

Finishing and off the ball movement
Pépé is a player that always has an eye for goal whenever attacking but has struggled in finding the net at Arsenal, only scoring four times in 24 Premier League appearances. His shot numbers since coming to North London have also dropped from 3.1 to 1.8 shots per game, which is down to his change in role and perhaps the step-up in quality in the Premier League compared to Ligue 1.

He still has room to improve in the finishing department as shown by his xG values in the last two seasons. At Arsenal, he has only managed to have an xG of 4.81 and in his last season at Lille where he scored 22 goals, he had an xG of 21.23. Elite finishers tend to overperform their xG values consistently, which Pépé has yet to have done. This could be seen as a positive as it means that he could score more goals in the future. It should be noted that in his last season in Lille, eight of his goals came from the penalty spot meaning that replicating such a huge goal tally at Arsenal would have been a tough task.

At Arsenal, there have been glimpses of his great movement. However, due to the Gunners’ attacking structure, he has been unable to make good runs on a more consistent basis and this will be discussed later on. Pépé is a very instinctive and intelligent player and is thus able to make superb runs or either find space in a crowded area.

Chance creation
An underrated trait of Pépé’s is his passing ability and his quality in chance creation. As mentioned earlier, he was able to tally 11 assists before his move to the Gunners, which is a great indicator of his quality in creating for his teammates. That tally was no fluke as his xA from that season was 10.38. He is also second in the team for key passes per game in the league with 1.4 – only Özil has more at 2.1. His pass accuracy is quite low at 80.7% but that is expected since he is a wide player who looks to play difficult passes in the final third.

Pépé’s role at Arsenal
For Arsenal, Pépé’s role changed a little bit and unfortunately for the 24-year-old, there is a stark contrast in how Arsenal play compared to Lille. The Gunners are a possession-based team and will often face off against teams in a lower block – something Lille did not have to do as often. This meant that Pépé would have less counter-attacking opportunities at Arsenal than he did in France, he therefore has to combine with the fullbacks to act as a chance creator.

Pepe has shown he is a good finisher as seen again last week, he has the dribbling ability to beat one or two markers and score goals. Aubameyang has shown that you don’t have to be a rounded footballer to be an elite striker, so why not give it a shot?

It will be difficult to get a buyer for him except if we are ready to make a significant loss on the amount we paid and are still paying for him, so why not get creative about it?

What do you think?


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  1. i agree with this article.

    Pepe should replace Lacazette in the false 9 role. he would have converted most of the chances Lacazette missed. He can also play behind the striker in a number 10 role. his shots are always accurate. and he is unpredictable. Arteta has to change to a 433 or 4231 formation. Pepe should be starting week in week out.

    1. Brad I agree with you NEVER an EPL player and never will be when is he going to get stuck in and fight never takes anybody on just passes if he is a winger let see skin a full back waste of £72 million

  2. Pepe has the speed and ability to score but the current formation and style at Arsenal takes him too far away from goal. He finds himself often needing to dribble in order to create space. He is discovering that dribbling at Nantes and dribbling in the EPL are 2 different animals. Like all other Arsenal players he needs freedom to operate.

  3. An interestung read with obvious thought behind this article, so it is welcome. My own view is that Laca has now amply proven that he will not ever become the striker we hoped we had bought. He is just not a good enough finisher and no good with heading, being so short. I would rest him and try Pepe as Goonerboy argues, in his place.

    I also have some reservations about Pepe, esp workrate. BUT he has shown enough to now deserve an extended run and he is a far better finisher than Laca, IMO, so I am for now for giving him a try in the centre and would keep Auba playing wide left.

    I would also move Saka into the Ozil position, where I believe he could thrive and we know HE would work hard.

  4. Arteta manages like he played; slow scripted movement with an overly cautious approach. Unleashing the players probably gets Arteta out of his comfort zone, and as a midfielder it’s surprising he set us up being outnumbered in midfield 3 to 2.
    At several points in the Villa game we had 11 players in our half; no wonder we struggle with quick transitions to attack and take chances with knackered attackers.
    I’d like to see Arteta take the handbrake off and free up the attackers. Leave the ST to hover at mid-pitch, move Tierney back to LB in a 4-3-3. Saliba can’t play worse than Holding last game; he was scared of Grealish and Bellerin was providing little cover.

  5. I don’t believe we have a ‘great’ finisher at our club at present. The reason why Auba’s goal scoring record is so good is that he has a great built-in positioning sense and will always score goals but will, at the same time, miss a lot of sitters. According to the EPL stats he has so far missed 39 great chances in the EPL alone. As for Laca, I agree with Jon Fox, he has never been a top goal scorer and only keeps his place because of his work ethic. As for Pepe taking his place I suppose it’s worth a try or wait for young Martinelli to get match fit? He has had a long lay-off and it will take time but, from what I have seen, this young lad is a great prospect and could solve that particular problem.

  6. Indeed Pepe has to play regularly to gain top form.
    I believe he can put in 15 goals and 10 assists in a season if played regularly.

    Pepe and Aubameyang can form a good partnership if being played on the right and center positions respectively.

    Saka also feeding Aubameyang from the left. This will result to a lot of goals for Aubameyang.

    Who should play just behind Aubameyang to link the midfield and attack that is the million dollar question. Is it Willian, Ceballos, Willock or Smith-Rowe?

    Partey and Elneny has taken the central midfield spots.

    The 4 man defence picks itself almost completely with Tierney and Bellerin the full backs.

    Gabriel has cemented his place at the Center back position. With Holding and Luiz in close competition to partner him.

  7. Not convinced. You need intelligent movement to be a good striker. Pepe hasn’t even shown this on the wings. And let’s not get started on his poor decision making. I think we’re just desperately trying to make an overall unimpressive player fit into the squad, rather than just admit he’s a poor signing.

  8. A very interesting and informative read, even for an old man who is not a fan of stats .For some time now I have been advocating playing Pepe as a natural left winger, and lately, the deterioration in the form and pace of Lacazette has led me to consider Pepe as a central striker.He has so many attributes which may outweigh his weaknesses if Arteta can see his way to reduce his defensive responsibilities.I don’t want to see Pepe in the RB position as was the case with Nketiah on Sunday.At the end of the day the decision rests with Arteta but whatever happens I do hope he has the strength of character to leave out Willian and Laca against Leeds.

  9. Pepe has killer instincts which llacazette has lost .Henry play fullback for juventus that isn’t obvious anymore Cos he found his calling as a striker .pepe is no Henry of course but it worth a try, given laca poor form.
    But even we get lewandowski he won’t score in this team that doesn’t create.

    1. Don’t think he’ll be much better there. Through the centre of defence there’s always more players than on the wing, so if he can’t really penetrate on the flank how will he be able to do that as a striker? Maybe if they play a lot quicker they can create one on one situations which can be exploited by whoever is out striker. Pepe needs to learn to dribble more intelligently and release the ball way quicker than he does. Arteta should instruct him to limit his touches because he’s dribbling isn’t working

      lot quicker

  10. In the past four seasons we’ve spent £182 million on forwards alone and the only one of them who scored regularly with both feet and head is long term injured.
    Pepe could be used as a central striker or wide forward and it’s wrong to say he’s one footed as he scored a terrific long range goal with his right recently. I still think he’s worth persevering with but not as an out & winger unless other arrangements can be made to compensate for his reluctance to defend.

  11. It worth trying place pepe or rowe behind auba in a 4 2 3 1. Bench willian and use nelson. and saka on the other side. Let us see what happen. I think arteta is learning on the job. Arsenal backward play is too much it drags the attackers away from goal.

  12. Good morning Arsenal.LEEDS VS ARSENAL.Leno,bellerin,David Luiz,Gabriel,Tierney,party,Elneny,Pepe,Saka,Aubameyang

  13. I have a friend who is a coach at the national level. He is very critical of MA. I am not. I believe in giving him more time – but I do complain that he keeps getting some of the basics wrong, especially team selection and team set up. I asked coach where he would play Pepe. He said Pepe is not a winger. He is a striker or false 9/#10. He suggested that he is not strong enough to dribble from the depth MA is forcing him to play. Coach also complained that Pepe is not very defensive and hence it is a risk playing him so far back.

    I was impressed when I saw this article making the same suggestion. It is likely that Pepe could perform better – rather than being frustrated.

  14. No harm in trying out Pepe as an out and out striker, since Laca is totally out of form. If Pepe clicks than nothing like it. also MA should not be ultra defensive and unleash our players, give them the freedom to play to their strengths and see how well they can do. Also the Academy guy Bellogen is also worth a try. MA should break the shackles and allow our players to express themselves.

  15. Very interesting proposition mentioned and has merit to justify. Maybe give him that position in Eurocup for a few games. Agree with Laca, he does work hard for the team but has gone cold in front of goal and doesn’t have the pace anymore as an outlet. Interesting that nobody has mentioned Nketiah. In your views then, he’s not considered good enough?

    1. No, personally I don’t think Nketiah is good enough. He needs a loan where he can start and get 25 to 30 games under his belt. Hopefully when Martinelli is healthy Arteta will give him chances up top. Martinelli was scoring goals and assisting, got player of the month also before his injury.
      He is ahead of Nketiah by miles in finishing and just basic first touches.

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