Arsenal were comprehensively beaten 3-1 by Liverpool on Saturday, but the one big positive was the performance of Nicolas Pepe.
Making his first start in the Premier League against the Champions League winners away from home, Pepe was Arsenal’s main attacking threat throughout the 90 minutes at Anfield.
The winger took twice as many shots as any other Arsenal player (four), he completed 91% of his passes and seven out of his 10 dribbles. That’s more dribbles than any other player has managed in a Premier League match this season.
The 24-year-old also created one chance directly and pressured Adrian into a mistake that almost allowed Aubameyang to score another.
The one negative was that he didn’t find the net after beating Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson to get through on goal. One missed chance created entirely off his own back is no cause for heavy criticism though.
Most impressively, Pepe managed to end Virgil van Dijk’s run of 50 Premier League games without being dribbled past:
50 – Nicolas Pepe has become the first player to successfully dribble past Virgil van Dijk in the Dutch defender's last 50 appearances in the Premier League, since Mikel Merino in March 2018 for Newcastle. Beaten. pic.twitter.com/B1oRZMciOB
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 24, 2019
If the Ivorian can dribble past some of the league’s top defenders, and make opportunities for himself in a game where Arsenal really struggled to get anyone else on the ball in advanced areas, he should have a lot of luck this season against lesser opposition.
Now it’s just a matter of getting on the scoresheet in an Arsenal shirt. There’s no better time to do so than in the North London derby next weekend.