Nicolas Pepe has been under the microscope all year, but the new Arsenal man has had some of his better qualities overlooked. Dude’s a rogue!
It dawned on me watching Arsenal play against Crustal Palace. Nicolas Pepe was not having the best game he’s ever had in a yellow shirt, but in one particular instance when Palace laid a particularly hard challenge on him, he took exception and began to snap back.
It earned him a yellow card, which was a bit heavy, as it didn’t look enough for such a punishment, but that’s when I remembered that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Pepe get particularly testy in a match, snapping at opposing players, taking exception to hard challenge and standing his ground in confrontations (or initiating them).
I love it. And I’m happy that this is becoming a theme with him. Of course, when it first dawned on me, I used a few words other than “rogue”, but to beat the censors here, I have to settle with rogue.
It wasn’t that long ago that fans were clamoring for guys who had a little fight in them. Players who wouldn’t allow themselves to be pushed over, run through, cowed in a confrontation.
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It was particularly noticeable because the previous era, with guys like Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira, was quite the opposite. That side had fight galore, and it inspired confidence in the club and fear in the opposition.
The turnaround started with guys like Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac, but adding Sokratis and David Luiz pushed the envelope forward. Now, seeing Nicolas Pepe standing as another fighter, I’m beginning to feel like we’re getting that hard edge back. The edge that doesn’t stand for any nonsense.
It will get us some yellow cards, and perhaps some red, and there will be times it won’t be beneficial, but overall, seeing our players angry, or lashing out at opposing players—it’s a good thing. You’d prefer that to the alternative, which I can say conclusively because we had that alternative just a few years ago.
Plus, you don’t often see this kind of behavior in attacking players that aren’t Eastern European. (Sorry, it’s true.) But Pepe has it, and it’s just another reason to love the guy.
Now if we can just see him continue to develop his touches, then he can piss off opposing players in a multitude of ways.