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Pepe to OGC Nice: Good Move for the Player and the Club

Arsenal: Nicolas Pepe genuinely lost his starting spot

Pepe’s current statistical records at Arsenal reads – 112 appearances, 27 goals, 14 assists. 

This is certainly not an amazing return from a player that joined the club for a record fee of £72m in the summer of 2019. In the second episode of the Gooner Daily Podcast, I discussed about the Curious Case of Nicolas Pepe, where I shared my thoughts about my thoughts on his situation at the club.

Despite being the club’s most expensive acquisition, he 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 has 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 last 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. 

Arsenal’s pursuit of Raphinha this summer, despite signing Marquinhos, showed that the Gunners wanted an upgrade on Pepe to provide better competition to Saka. With the Brazilian opting to sign for Broke-lona, the tabloids reported that Arsenal are chasing Wolves’ Pedro Neto, which is also considered as another upgrade on Pepe.

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. Hopefully, he will rediscover his 2018/19 form in Ligue Un that saw him score 23 goals and supply 16 assists. 

Kudos to Pepe for staying as a model professional through this ordeal. For a player that was signed for such huge money, one would have expected that he would have shown some form of agitation for staying on the bench for so long, but as Arseblog suggests, He’s probably an introvert. 

Pepe’s exit certainly opens the door for a new winger signing, like Neto, unless the club has bigger plans for Marquinhos, that has been tearing it up at Under-21 level. We also have Fabio Vieira, that’s adept on the right flank, but one thing is for sure – Saka needs competition and we can only hope he gets it this season.

Sayonara.

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GD Podcast S01E02 – The Curious Case of Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal: Nicolas Pepe genuinely lost his starting spot

Nicolas Pepe has lost his starting spot in the team to Bukayo Saka

Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from LOSC Lille Metropole for £72m in the summer of 2019 and a lot of great things were expected of him. In three seasons at the club, he has notched up 112 appearances, scoring only 27 goals.

So far, my fondest memory of Nicolas Pepe was his double freekick salvo in the Europa League against Victoria Guimaraes in October 2019, when he came on as a substitute – Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Pepe.

In this episode on the Gooner Daily Podcast, Enigma discusses about the acquisition of Arsenal’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe, his expectations of the Ivorian winger and his current struggle with the club.

 

Listen to today’s podcast and let’s discuss about Nicolas Pepe in the comments.

GD Podcast S01E02 – The Curious Case of Nicolas Pepe

 

Sayonara

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Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Pepe

Image result for pepe goal victoria

Unai Emery, his tactics, substitutions, and his football in general has come under major criticism following the series of unconvincing displays from the team which was compounded by the shambolic outing in Bramall Lane on Monday night. The Gunners had a golden opportunity to cement third place in the League against a newly-promoted side but the manager put up a side that wasn’t just good enough.

With the Premier League out of way till the weekend at least, there was the business of the Europa League and as you’d expect, Emery made wholesale changes with only Joe Willock retaining his place in the team. Emi Martinez continued his role as the Cup keeper, captain Hector Bellerin led the defense that had Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney and Skhodran Mustafi. Many Arsenal fans are in the strong opinion that at least three of the four defenders that featured yesterday are ready for Premier League football, but I guess the manager is working with the team physicians on when he’d get the go ahead to feature them in the elite competition.

In midfield, Lucas Torreira played alongside Willock in the double fulcrum and I expected a certain Mesut Ozil to play ahead of them but to my surprise, it was Emile Smith-Rowe. Not that I’m not tired about this whole Ozil – Emery debacle but I can’t fathom why the German schemer can’t even get a game in a minor competition like the Europa League. It’s even more bewildering when you consider the fact that Emery publicly stated that he would feature soon as he’s ‘training well’. In attack, our cup predator, Gabriel Martinelli, had to settle for a spot in the left flank, as the returning Alexandre Lacazette needed a game ahead of the Crystal Palace clash. Ainsley Maitland-Niles completed the attacking trio.

The Gunners were shaky from the start but it was surprising to see the visitors score the opening goal of the game after their right winger skinned Tierney and provided a cut back to Marcus Edwards, that had all the time in the world to pick his spot before slotting the ball under Martinez legs to put the away side ahead. Victoria Guimaraes came into the game bottom of the pile, so to see them get ahead the group’s top side was a little cause for concern. The Gunners pushed and probed for an equalizer and got it when Tierney swung in a beauty of a cross that was nodded home by Martinelli. Scoring five goals in your debut season as an 18-year-old clearly shows that you are a reliable deputy in attack and it makes me happy because the Carabao Cup and Europa League will give the lad the platform he needs to flourish, as he waits for a real run up in the Premier League.

Arsenal has always had this habit of capitulating on their own and the visitors grabbed a second after some sloppy play from Maitland-Niles in midfield that left the team exposed to the counter. The initial strike beat Martinez and clipped the post but Duarte was on hand to blast home the rebound, giving the Arsenal goalie no chance. As you’d expect from Emery losing a game to a lower opposition at half time, he made two changes after the break bringing on Dani Ceballos and Matteo Guendouzi for the ineffectual Willock and Maitland-Niles. Their introductions brought the wind on the Gunners sails and they kept barraging the Victoria Guimaraes defense in search of an equalizer.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, Emery took out Lacazette for the club’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe. The jury has been out for the young Ivorian following his 72m quid move from LOSC Lille Metropole and with only one goal to his name (gifted by the lovable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), many fans remained hopeful that he would show the quality that made the Gunners spend all that mullah for his services. Five minutes into Pepe’s introduction, the Gunners had an indirect free kick from quite some distance leaving the Ivorian winger with two plausible options – cross it to the danger area or go for goal. He choose the latter and the net was bulging, sending the Emirates into raptures. His celebration was quite muted and he just wanted to go on with his business.

2-2 with minutes to spare, the Gunners needed someone to take the game by the scruff of its neck and our Guendouzi stepped up, making a Jack Wilshere-esque lung bursting run into the heart of the Victoria Guimaraes defense and as expected, he was scythed down by a defender at the edge of the box. Thoughts of the similar run in the Aston Villa game came to my head and we had Aubameyang to finish it off and win the tie for the Gunners but this time, Pepe made his intentions clear that he wanted to take the free kick and boy was that some finish! Swung with his magic wand of a left foot to the top corner winning the game for his side. Like the previous goal, his celebration was muted but his teammates were all over him, providing some encouragement to the lad, as his sheet quality won the game for his side.

What I can take from Pepe’s celebrations is that he was very relieved to see that he was delivering some output as there has been a lot of pressure on the lad as you’d expect for a club record signing. But we can look to the Crystal Palace game with some optimism knowing that we have Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe available for selection with the intent of causing real damage but last night was about our 72m man.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Pepe.

Sayonara.

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