The Red Hot Gnabry and the Not So Hot Chili Pepe
Wingers. One of the most essential positions in modern day football, giving we the fans the viewing pleasure of seeing them make those mazy runs, breathtaking dribbles and of course, well taken goals.
When Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe for the club record 72 million pounds, many of us didn’t know much about him but the internet offers such a vast array of knowledge that enables us to do our own research to satisfy those curiosities and boy, was I satisfied! 23 goals and 12 assists for those statisticians, then there were the videos of his overall play and insane dribbling skills. I have to admit that I didn’t really get a good glimpse of him for Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations, but I was still optimistic that he was going to be an awesome signing for us as he offered something that we lacked from an attacking perspective, and of course, the prospect of seeing him play alongside our deadly duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was mouth watering to say the least.
Seven games into the new Premier League campaign, and there are some mixed feelings about Pepe’s performances for the team. It’s not like he has been a terrible signing per se, but like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben famously said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Putting it in this context, we signed Pepe for 72m and we expect 72m kinda returns from him. Using Arsenal’s alpha dog in attack, Aubameyang, as a case study, we signed him for 54m in January 2018. Since then he has scored 49 goals in 73 games (39 in the Premier League – joint most of any player in the division in that period with Mohamed Salah (39) and Sergio Aguero (33) coming close. Aubameyang has also had 11 assists in addition to his 49 Arsenal goals, which is 60 goal contributions in the 73 games, which totals 5728 minutes and if you convert it further, it’s one goal contribution every 95 minutes. This clearly indicates that you’d expect Aubameyang to score or assist in pretty much every game he plays, a stat that he has amazingly achieved in the Premier League this season.
In Pepe’s seven Premier League games so far, he has scored only one goal from a spot kick (gifted to him by the lovable Aubameyang) and he has created one assist as well. He has averaged three shots per game, with 1.4 outside the box and 1.3 in the penalty area, 1.6 key passes with a pass completion percentage of 79%, 3.3 successful dribbles (including one on Virgil van Dijk that has turned out to be a big deal in some parts of the world). The player himself is aware of his current situation and voiced his thoughts,
“It has not been easy, I must tell the truth. My stats have not been good enough or my usual performances, it is not the same as Lille or the Liverpool game earlier in the season.
My confidence must come back. I am not very worried. People may be worried about my statistics but I am not. I have to keep working as the level here is different, so is the language. It is a new league for me and I must adapt quickly. But it won’t take very long.”
I’d say it’s not time to bring out the torches and pitchforks because the potential is out there for everyone to see. Pepe has been offered us that fear factor in attack and he does his bit to be creative for others. Yes, he had a stinker at Old Trafford only to be replaced by Reiss Nelson that wasn’t any better to be honest but I’m confident that he would be a massive success at Arsenal.
At least, he will be given a chance to show his worth at Arsenal, unlike a certain Serge Gnabry that is lighting fireworks in Bayern Munich. I remember when he earned his Arsenal breakthrough in the 2013/14 season in that win against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. It seemed like the star was going to be his limit but that gruesome knee injury happened and a certain Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was in very good form. Following his rehabilitation and return from injury, he found things difficult in North London and things went from bad to worse when he was loaned to West Brom and Tony Pulis declared that he wasn’t good enough to play Premier League football.
So the club opted not to renew his deal and shipped him off to Werder Bremen for a measly 5m quid, but the lad found a new lease of life after shining at the Olympics and ended up with 11 goals in 27 apps for the Bremen based outfit. Bayern Munich came calling and as you’d expect from any young German, the answer was certainly yes, but they shipped up off to Hoffenheim after snapping him up from Bremen and he acquainted himself well, scoring 10 goals in 26 games for the club. With legends like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery gone, as well as the failed pursuit of Leroy Sane, Gnabry was given a chance to stake a claim for the Bayern jersey and he has been impressive for the German giants, scoring 13 goals in his debut campaign for them. When you consider that he’s a young winger with potential, these are good numbers.
Fast forward to last night, Gnabry was on fire in North London, helping his team utterly destroy Tottenham in a 7-2 bashing, where he smashed in four amazing goals. It was highlight reel stuff, leaving defenders to eat his dust while he made mince meat of Hugo Lloris in goal. A good night for the humiliation of Spurs became even better when he went to his social media and stated that North London is Red. You can’t help but love it when ex-Gunners do such stuff.
Well, all focus would move to playing Standard Liege on Thursday and I’d drop my thoughts on that as we draw closer.
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