Nicolas Pepe had just been dubbed a flop before West Ham, but the record-breaking Arsenal man debuted a different ‘F’ word at London Stadium.
Arsenal had to change something against West Ham. They had to find confidence. And Freddie Ljungberg‘s answers were pretty conclusive. Aside from the key change in defense, he also changed the attack, giving Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli the nod.
It may seem counterintuitive to look for confidence from one of the men seemingly most lacking in it, but there we can see a bit of astuteness from Freddie Ljungberg.
Nicolas Pepe struggled to impact the match against Brighton after his half-time introduction, but you could see the intent was there. He was one of the few—if not the only—guys actively trying to chance the face of the match. And again, it wasn’t a beautiful thing, there was a lot of sloppiness, but the man was putting himself out there, trying to instigate change.
That change really came through against West Ham. Even in the first half, when Arsenal were unsurprisingly sh*t, Pepe was doing a lot of what he was also doing against Brighton, he was giving it a good, solid effort.
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He was trying to make things happen. And It finally paid off in the second half.
After Gabriel Martinelli instigated the reversal of fortune and the team caught up to Pepe and got on his level, the change was instantaneous. His second goal was pure inspiration. He knew what he wanted right from the off, and with enough confidence circulating the team, he harvested his bit and curled home.
It didn’t stop there.
On his second big opportunity, he lofted a cheeky ball into the box that connected with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was able to volley home first time. It was the Nicolas Pepe show all of a sudden, and the ‘F’ word I had so vehemently hated was disappearing and turning into another —Fantastic.
Pepe continued to showcase speed, agility, and intelligence with the ball. He was all smiles and hugs when he came off the pitch and it was plain to see why. This match went the way it did because of him. He did this. He had the audacity to take five months to make his impact, but when we needed it desperately, he provided.
That all behind him, what some of us have been saying all year can finally come true. Pepe just needed confidence. Now the world is his burrito.