Daily Archives: September 8, 2023
Prior to the acquisition of Nicolas Pepe from LOSC Lille Metropole in 2019, there was a very interesting fictional conversation between head coach, Unai Emery, and Head of Football, Raul Sanllehi.
Unai Emery: Good ebening, Raul. You have worked well with Edu Gaspar to sign all these unknown youngsters like Gabriel Martinelli from Ituano, James Hilson from Reading, Jason Sraha from Chelsea, Catalin Cirjan from Viitorul Domnești and the highly-rated youngster, William Saliba, from St. Etienne, but I need some experienced to take us to Champions League football this season.
Raul Sanllehi: Hi, Unai. Please don’t remind me of last season. It was a complete double bottle job from you. Despite being in contention for fourth place, you somehow found a way to lose four of your last seven Premier League matches to allow Tottenham claim fourth place in your stead. You also had a Europa League final with Chelsea, who had already finished in third place, but still found a way to run you ragged with a 4-1 thrashing. I thought you were ‘Mr. Europa League’ with your exploits in Sevilla.
Unai Emery: The past is the past Raul. Let’s focus on the future. I have identified the player I need that will take us to the next level. He scored 10 goals with Crystal Palace and he can come in to support the attacking talent we already have at our disposal. I need Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace.
Raul Sanllehi: So you need an Ivorian winger? There’s one I can get for you!!!
Unai Emery: Oh yes! I need an Ivorian right-footed winger that cuts in from the left.
Raul Sanllehi: Say no more! I will get you an Ivorian left-footed winger that cuts in from the right.
Unai Emery: Huh?!
Arsenal parted ways with £72m to buy Nicolas Pepe, who turned out to be the club’s record signing, before it was shattered by the Declan Rice deal. Well, prior to arriving at Arsenal, Pepe’s 2018/19 season numbers were phenomenal
- 33 attacking returns for Lille with 22 goals and 11 assists.
- Only the mercurial Kylian Mbappe (40) had more attacking output than Pepe in the Ligue Un that season.
- 102 successful dribbles and 61 shots on target in the 2018/19 season.
- Rightfully earned a place in the 2018/19 Ligue Un Team of the Year.
- His YouTube compilation was pure fire.
We didn’t know much about Pepe, but a usually frugal Arsenal dished out £72m for his services, so we were ready to give him a chance.
Despite being the club’s most expensive acquisition, Pepe clearly started on the wrong foot as he wasn’t his manager’s choice as an attacking signing – it was well documented that the Arsenal gaffer, Unai Emery (good ebening), wanted the services of a certain Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace, an established Premier League right-footed inverted left winger that would have cost £80m, but Raul Sanllehi, in his infinite fraudulence and wisdom, I suppose, signed a relatively unknown left-footed inverted right winger that had a breakthrough campaign for £8m less.
Zaha went gone to improve in leaps and bounds for Crystal Palace, earning a talismanic status in the club, while Pepe, on the other hand, has been on the trenches.
However, the disgruntled Emery didn’t give Pepe the Jose Mourinho treatment of Andriy Shevchenko, but instead, featured the Ivorian winger consistently alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Arsenal attack, and in all honesty, Pepe didn’t light up any fireworks. His opening goal for the club was actually a gift from Aubameyang, when the Gabonese forward gracefully allowed Pepe play the penalty kick against Aston Villa, which he converted. Pepe’s first triumphant moment with the club arrived when he converted two free kicks against Victoria Guimaraes, coming on as a substitute. Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Pepe.
Sadly, things turned really sour at Arsenal and Unai Emery lost his job, with Mikel Arteta taking over, but Pepe still got a chance to feature for the new gaffer. Unfortunately, Pepe couldn’t build on his good end of season form with the arrival of that aged pensioner from Chelsea, Willian. For the life of me, I couldn’t fathom why Arsenal gave a three year deal to a 32-year-old, and his performances clearly showed he wasn’t half arsed, which is why I was quite bemused when he terminated his contract with us after one season to join Corinthians in his native Brazil.
With Willian featuring consistently on the right wing, Pepe had a bit-part role in the team but eventually won his place back when the Brazilian’s form was so poor that it stunk all over the place. Pepe justified his selection and grabbed the bull by the horns by actually putting up some outstanding performances, finishing that campaign with 16 goals in 47 appearances.
The biggest dent to Pepe’s fledgling progress was the emergence of last season’s Player of the Year, Bukayo Saka. Despite being older than Saka and more technically astute, Pepe couldn’t offer more to his game than the Young Englishman – defensive contributions, intelligent link up play, better decision making in the final third and most importantly, the manager’s trust.
Saka’s continuous sojourns on the right wing relegated Pepe to the bench on a permanent basis and with Arsenal failing to qualify for Europe in the 2021/22 season, Pepe made to make do with three early League Cup appearances, scoring two goals against West Brom and Sunderland, with Saka getting the nod as Arsenal progressed to the latter stages of the competition. It was even worse in the Premier League, with Pepe garnering only 600 minutes from a possible 3,420, with his only telling contribution in the League coming in the 2-1 win against Wolves.
With these transfer speculations of an incoming winger, it only made sense for Pepe and his representatives to seek a move elsewhere, as his future no longer lies within the Emirates Stadium. The club has officially announced that the winger would be joining French outfit, OGC Nice, on a loan move for the entirety of the 2022/23 campaign. With Pepe joining Arsenal on a five-year deal in 2019, he will have one more year left, following the completion of his loan spell with Nice, with one foot on the exit door on a permanent basis.
This summer, Turkey seemed to be the destination for Pepe, as he was linked with a host of teams from the SuperLig. He was heavily linked with a move to Fenerbahce, then it was believed that he was set for a medical with Besiktas, which was untrue, as it was denied by the club. After quite the tumultuous summer for the Ivorian, Pepe is finally on his way out of Arsenal after agreeing a deal with Trabzonspor.
Pepe was one of the most sought-after players in European football when Arsenal signed him four years ago, but his stock has fallen to the point where the club are having to terminate his contract. The 28-year-old will be looking to kick start his career away from the pressures of the Premier League.
I wish him the very best in his new adventure.
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