Against Newcastle United, Nicolas Pepe showed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette some love with an assist apiece. Could the Arsenal striker’s bromance blossom into a trio?
Last season, the dynamic duo of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette provided a large majority of Arsenal goal contributions. In the Premier League alone, the pair scored 35 of the 73 goals, almost half. In the Europa League semi-final, the Gunners seven goals across the two legs. Aubameyang and Lacazette scored all seven.
This season,however, as the latter has waned and the former has missed time due to suspension, Nicolas Pepe has picked up the scraps. Could this famed bromance now be set to blossom into a trio?
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For the first time this year, against Newcastle United at the weekend, all three of Arsenal’s ideally prolific attackers scored, with Pepe turning provider for the other two in the process. That Mikel Arteta’s side dominated the game is not shocking: the attack and midfield were firing on all cylinders, especially in the second half, proven both by the scoreline and the passion of the team displayed on the pitch.
The addition of an in-form Pepe, then, could finally bring the dynamism that this power pairing has been missing. The two forwards rely on good service. They were able to make the most of scraps last season. They provide well for one another in advanced positions, but giving them a third option will open up space, create more chances, and lead to more goals. Pepe can provide it.
Pepe, a proven creator, can help get Lacazette back on his horse and regain scoring form. He will attract defenders away from central areas, thus opening space for Lacazette to drop into and Aubameyang to drive in behind. His dribbling ability is menacing and demands attention, and his end-product, especially off his left side, is improving.
But the creation of a trio will have an influence off the pitch as well. Aubameyand and Lacazette are the figureheads of the team: they lead the line in training, not just in matches. They are the most popular members of the dressing room. It is no surprise Aubameyang was voted captain after Granit Xhaka was stripped of the armband this November.
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Adding Pepe to this group will provide him with the opportunity to further integrate himself into the team. Cohesion and chemistry, on and off the field, is vital for a new signing. In addition, Pepe speaks mostly French, while Aubameyang and Lacazette are very multilingual. The Ivorian will have the opportunity to grow in his language skills, an invaluable tool for playing football in another country.
And if this trio does form, Arsenal have a good chance of maintaining their rhythm. Arteta’s squad has lacked bite going forward at times, an absence of attacking ingenuity and directness to blame for their offensively blunt performances. That will certainly change if Pepe is tied into the almost telepathic connection which Aubameyang and Lacazette share. A united front three is a dangerous front three. Just ask anyone who has played Liverpool in recent seasons.
Attacking pairs are dangerous. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. But in this modern age of 4-3-3, three-man frontlines and lone strikers, adding a third into the mix changes the equation entirely. It opens up the whole attack. That is what Pepe can do for Aubameyang, Lacazette and the entire Arsenal team.