As I was reading through the papers during the week, I was stopped by Jason’ Burt’s article in the Telegraph that was supposed to be praising Mikel Arteta but just ended up insulting Arsenal, their fans, and Nicolas Pepe.
It’s well known by now that Unai Emery wanted Wilfried Zaha and not Nicolas Pepe.
Would things have worked out differently for the Spaniard had he got him? I doubt it, not unless Zaha is also good at defending as a unit all by himself.
Arsenal went for Pepe who took a while to get going. That was not unexpected and I talked, at length, about why it wouldn’t be an issue.
But here we are in July and, like with Olivier Giroud when he first arrived and was branded a ‘flop it is a name that is sticking to Nicolas Pepe and I don’ like it.
First up, it’s not even true. He hasn’t ‘flopped’. Let’s do one simple comparison to show what total and utter nonsense that is.
Here are Zaha’s stats for the season:
Here are Pepe’s:
Pepe, in his first season in a new league at a new club in a new country that speaks a different language has twice as many goals as Zaha and almost twice as many assists.
Yes, yes, I know Zaha plays for Palace, but do you remember who Arsenal’s boss was for most of this season and how little attacking football we played?
Arsenal had a total of 390 shots in the league this season. Palace? 363.
As they are both attacking players it is absolutely right we judge them on goals and assists.
But let’s look at some other metrics in case that isn’t enough for you.
Zaha is Palace’s Top Rated player on WhoScored for the season with 6.98. At Arsenal, Pepe also finished top with 7.06, ahead of Emi Martinez who has 7.02 and Auba on 7.03.
That’s right, the player who is described by large sections of the media as not really being up to much has a better per-game performance rate than the player everybody would agree is the best at Arsenal by some distance.
Pepe also averages 1.6 shots per game, the same as Zaha so it’s not like the Arsenal man is lucking out from shooting loads.
Pepe wins 0.6 of his headers while Zaha wins only 0.3. That’s twice as many or half as much, depending on your view.
Pepe has been Man of the Match seven times. Zaha? Twice.
Pepe’s pass success rate is 81.2% while Zaha’s is nearly identical at 81% exactly.
Pepe has played 956 domestic minutes fewer than Zaha, that’s 10-and-a-half full games.
When it comes to control, Pepe even has Zaha beat in that category as well. While the Ivorian demonstrates bad ball control, on average, 1.7 times per match, Zaha’s rate is double that at 3.4.
Pepe is also only dispossessed around 1.5 times per match while Zaha is positively wasteful with 3.9. That’s twice as good or half as good, again, depending on your view.
So, that’s more goals and assists from far fewer minutes for Pepe, who controls the ball better, loses it less often, wins twice as many headers as Zaha and wins the MotM more than three times as often.
What a flop, eh?
If only we’d paid that extra £8m to land the almost 28-year-old Zaha instead of the just-turned-25 Pepe, eh?