Inconsistent Pepe Needs Consistent Minutes by AI
What is the club’s plan for Nicolas Pepe? If it is for him to be an impact sub while the likes of 31-year-old Willian and 32-year-old Aubameyang start on the wings, then all is well and there is no point in this article. But if the club intend the 25-year-old to inherit a position on the flank and be a central part of our future going forward, then what is currently going on is detrimental to that plan.
Let us all retain perspective about last season. It was our worst for a decade and more. We had three managers and rows with at least 3 players. We finished the season outside of the top 6 and dropped out of the Europa League in the Round of 16 against some Greek club. Pepe finished his debut season with 19 goal contributions. That was not exactly great but when you look at it in the context of one of the worst seasons in the modern history of Arsenal Football Club, the output is actually decent.
Then there are the awesome moments that remind us of what we paid for. Two stunning freekicks in the dying minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the performance against Manchester United, that soul-snatching nutmeg against Burnley, that mazy run in a difficult match against Leeds in a competition we later won, an assist for Lacazette in the North London derby, and the pass to Aubameyang for the decisive goal in the final of the FA Cup against Chelsea. Clearly, Pepe is an extremely talented player. Clearly, he does not hide in important games and, clearly, he did not do so bad for a debut in a terrible Arsenal season.
We signed Willian in the summer transfer window and he has promptly taken Pepe’s place in the squad. Willian has never reached 19 goal contributions in his past seven seasons for Chelsea. In fact, against Sheffield United, Pepe, brought on to play a few minutes in the end, was the one who unlocked the Sheffield defense with a mazy dribble and shot.
For doing that, Nicolas Pepe was rewarded with a place on the bench against Manchester City. Against Leiceister City when Willian could not play, Aubameyang was dragged out to the right flank.
Pepe is not the singular solution to our attacking issues but he’s certainly not responsible for the problems. He clearly has more direct goal contributions in him than Willian. He is not going to reach his potential if he is not trusted. He is not going to give us what he has without consistency.
Consistency births consistency. Players like Mane and Salah were given consistent minutes in Austria and Italy before they reached their potential. Pepe clearly has plenty of talent in him. Enough talent for him to reach superstar status for Arsenal. But he is not getting enough minutes. And for what?