There were reports in November that Arsenal will look to cash in on their record signing but how much truth is there to all the Nicolas Pepe chatter?
Nicolas Pepe cost Arsenal £72m. I bet you never knew that. You never hear it mentioned.
Anyway, as such, he’s expected to do a lot more than he is doing. After all, he was only the third highest scorer at Arsenal (after Auba and Laca) during his first unsettled season that also involved three managers and a global pandemic.
With Arsenal spending so much money on Pepe the pens were always poised to pump out poison if he didn’t hit the ground with an opening day hat-trick. The media do that with some players. Take a look at Mesut Ozil if you don’t believe me.
Pepe was never going to clear the bar many in the media and fanbase had set for him due to a price tag that had absolutely nothing to do with him or fair market value. Kinda like blaming your granny because your sister stole the birthday money she sent.
Anyway, Pepe didn’t help himself by rubbing heads against Leeds and getting himself sent off, leaving the aforementioned fans and media with only Europa League performances to judge his performance, ability, and attitude on for the guts of a month. Those were also loaded. If Pepe did well, well, he should, shouldn’t he? He cost £72m and he’s playing Molde! If he didn’t, well, we know how that went too.
It’s unlikely this is a game Pepe can ever win unless he turns into Lionel Messi.
It doesn’t matter that he has as many goals as Aubameyang this season (4) and only Hector Bellerin has more assists (4 vs 3). Bad Pepe is bad and, as such, needs to be sold immediately!
Given that Arsenal still have around £30m to pay for Pepe and no chance of clawing back the £42m already paid (£22m upfront, £10m-a-year), that would seem to be spectacularly bad business on top of some borderline criminal behaviour in the first place.
The story that Arsenal want to sell Pepe started with an excusive in the Star on Sunday/Daily Star which is usually a ‘paper’ we can dismiss without thought, but historically they have a good track record of breaking Arsenal stories with connections between the paper going back to the now-deceased Brian Woolnough and Peter Hill-Wood who were chums.
The story has spread since then, all referencing the Star as their source, so it certainly seems like a rumour primed to take hold but with little substance at present.
Given the ‘no money’ situation Arsenal find themselves in, it would seem odd that they think they can just throw approximately £50m away in terms of Pepe when he has shown the talent is there.
12 goals and 13 assists in 3,686 minutes works out as a goal or assist every three halves. That’s positively prolific in our post-Wenger goal wasteland.
In fact, although Pepe’s goals have dropped since his time at Lille (whose haven’t at Arsenal over the past two seasons?), he is assisting at a slightly higher rate.
Arteta on speculation about the end of Pepe’s Arsenal career
26/11/20 by Dan Critchlow
Mikel Arteta denies Sunday’s red card spells the end for Nicolas Pepe’s Arsenal career, confirming the player apologised and they’re all moving on.
Nicolas Pepe picked up a red card for a ‘headbutt’ on a Leeds man over the weekend, leaving his side with 10 men and earning a three-game suspension in the Premier League.
The one positive of the timing of the red is that Arsenal have midweek Europa League games in each of the next three weeks. Pepe won’t be able to play at the weekend, but at least he can give the Premier League starters a break every Thursday.
At his press conference on Wednesday, Mikel Arteta was asked whether this was actually the perfect time for Pepe to get back out on the pitch and start making amends.
Yes, absolutely,” Arteta responded (via Football.London). “We’ve all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference.
“He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility, and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see and have a good reaction to help his team.”
The end of Pepe’s Arsenal career?
Football fans love a bit of melodrama, so it was no surprise to see some suggesting one red card could spell the beginning of the end for Pepe’s Arsenal career. Arteta responded to those claims adamantly, denying the possibility.
“No, it’s absolutely not. It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement. I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities.
“He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball. I cannot fault his effort at all.
“You see the way he strives for the team, the way he’s working, it’s been the best since he’s been at the club.
“But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it’s a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career… it’s not at all like that.
“He has reacted the right way after that [incident] and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week. It’s in his hands. He’s a player I really like, that I know what he can give, and it’s completely up to him.”
Pepe’s agent also insists the 25-year-old remains determined to succeed at Arsenal. A goal or assist on Thursday night against Molde would be a great way for us to start moving on.
Did Nicolas Pepe answer his critics against Molde?
Arsenal beat Molde 3-0 on Thursday night to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and with all eyes upon him, Nicolas Pepe stepped up.
Heavily criticised for his stupidity against Leeds United at the weekend that now sees him ruled out of the next three matches domestically, Pepe was always going to have to deliver against Molde to have any chance of turning a large section of the fanbase around.
Reports stated that he’d worked hard in training all week and Nicolas Pepe ended the game against Molde with one goal, one against the woodwork and another that went narrowly wide.
In fact, he ended the game as Man of the Match with a 9, the only player from either side to hit higher than 8.5 (Joe Willock).
Pepe completed 87% of his 39 passes and got off six shots. He put in 12 crosses, played four key passes, won 12 of his 20 duels, completed nine of the 11 dribbles he attempted, made and won one tackle, won 50% of his aerials, and recovered the ball twice.
Keep performing like that, Nico, and the fans won’t only forgive you, they’ll start to love you.
“We all know where his level is. All the time the question is how often can he get to that level and contribute to other aspects of the game. Today is the example.”
Freddie Ljungberg names 3 things Nicolas Pepe needs to do
28/11/20 by Lee Hurley
Freddie Ljungberg backs Nicolas Pepe to succeed, insisting every player makes mistakes and it’s not easy to adapt to the Premier League.
Nicolas Pepe was the subject of plenty of media attention this week.
The red card against Leeds United brought speculation about whether he would even remain an Arsenal player for long, but a Man-of-the-Match, Team-of-the-Week, Player-of-the-Week-nominated performance against Molde put him back on track.
Pepe’s former coach Freddie Ljungberg spoke to The Athletic about the winger, and he insisted the Ivory Coast international is committed to the cause and shouldn’t be judged entirely on one mistake.
“I think Nico will come good,” Ljungberg said. “Nico wants to work. Every player makes mistakes. I got sent off at Spurs! Don’t slaughter them too much, because it happens to all of us.
“The important thing is how they react afterwards and if he knuckles down, works even harder and still tries to prove himself. He’s not had the easiest time, there’s a lot of focus on him.”
Of course, there’s still an argument that Pepe should be doing more, regardless of the red card. He may have four goals and two assists in eight starts this season, but most of them were in the Europa League against lesser opposition.
Ljungberg thinks it’s too easy to use the game time excuse for Pepe’s limited impact so far, but does admit it’s hard to adapt to English football.
“I could say easy things like, ‘Yeah, he needs game time’. OK, but you have a lot of other players as well who need game time. That’s what is difficult. When you come from the French league to the Premier League, you need a bit of adaptation.
“It’s totally different football and everything around football. So you need game time but you need results at the same time. It’s not an easy balance.”
Pepe should feature in the next couple of Europa League games, whilst serving a Premier League suspension. After that, he needs to prove to Arteta he deserves the chance to make a difference in domestic competition as well.