Arsenal are set to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille according to several reports across Europe, including the BBC.
With previous bids for the likes of Wilfried Zaha, it seems the Gunners have decided to put their big investment in Pepe, 24.
Younger and perhaps a player with more potential, Pepe could be considered the better long term investment for the club. So let’s take a closer look at why Arsenal are prepared to invest so much in the Ivory Coast international.
Pepe really was the star of the show for Lille last season and picked up 13 man of the match awards according to WhoScored rankings, no Arsenal player managed more than four.
But let’s go beyond the headline stats and look a little closer at what Pepe’s style of play is.
Pepe’s 22 league goals and 11 assists are certainly what initially caught the eye of Europe’s top clubs. His ability to be so prolific from wide areas gives Arsenal something they don’t already have. The likes of Iwobi and Mkhitaryan have not offered enough in the final third over the last couple of seasons.
Arsenal have really lacked ball carrying wide players also with the likes of Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Iwobi struggling to beat tight defences. Iwobi averaged the most successful dribbles of Arsenal players last season (1.3), Pepe with 2.7 really stands out as an improvement. We must of course remember that Ligue 1 is probably an easier place to take defenders on, but it’s an impressive stat nonetheless.
Nicolas Pepe is flying on the Index after the breaking news 📈
— Football Index (@FootballIndex) July 27, 2019
The need for players like this is clear. Both Liverpool and Manchester City have been so successful both home and away due to the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. Before Pepe arriving, Arsenal have no player like this.
With the introduction of VAR, Arsenal will need forwards to be aggressive with their dribbling, drawing fouls. Pepe won an average of 2.8 fouls per 90 last season whilst no Arsenal forward averaged more than 0.6 (Aubameyang).
And Pepe can’t just dribble. He has an eye for a pass and is very creative, the thought of him linking up with Aubameyang and Lacazette is exciting. Averaging 1.8 key passes per 90, only Ozil (1.9) managed more in an Arsenal shirt last season.
Standing at 6ft tall and possessing strength and significant pace when carrying the ball, Pepe’s significant physical qualities should not be forgotten. He certainly has the build to succeed immediately in the Premier League, having matured in France.
So what are his weaknesses? He is not best known for his defensive contributions averaging just 0.7 tackles and 0.3 interceptions per 90, two stats that are bettered by Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Unai Emery will certainly demand that Pepe does his fair share of defensive duties as well, but we’ve seen both Lacazette and Aubameyang improve their work rate under Emery.
There’s no doubt this would be a top tier signing for Arsenal.
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