Arsenal has seen some tremendous stuff from Nicolas Pepe, but the next stop for him is something not requiring as much skill.
Nicolas Pepe continues to grow and improve. While Arsenal fans continue to argue amongst themselves if he was worth the record sum that was paid for his services, I will still be here clinging resolutely to the truth—that he absolutely was.
But that’s not to say he’s perfect. Of course not. What fun would that be? Rather, he’s an incredible attacker—arguably our best—while he continues to grow and improve along the way. Even this season, we’ve seen plenty of improvements as is. He’s not forcing the issue as much as he was months ago. He’s producing more goals. He’s settling in better.
Those have all been acquired skills. Stuff that he picked up along the way. You know, because players improve. That’s just what they do.
For Pepe, what’s next is longevity. Being able to string together entire matches where he’s the star man, rather than just segments of 30, 45, 60 minutes.
Against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, Pepe was a monster of an attacker for the first 45. After he scored that penalty, ht went on to two more tremendous chances, one required a stellar save and the other missed just wide of the far post.
Pepe was everywhere. He was dribbling circles around Stevens and Robinson, leaving them in the dust every time he felt like it.
But after the half, he faded. You could tell because Bukayo Saka started to get more involved, picking up the slack where Pepe left off. Pepe got himself one more really good chance in the second half before bowing out after passing up on a ball that he left for Ceballos to slow home the winner.
All in all, it earned him the man of the match. But it also has to be said that he played about an hour of really good football and a half-hour of meh. Which is fine, I’m not complaining. An hour of peak Pepe is better than 90 minutes of most people’s peak.
Just in terms of what happens next, what he can improve next, I’d like to see him branch out into stretching this ability out for entire matches. We’ve seen it a couple of times, but more often than not, he gets subbed off anyway so he doesn’t even have the chance.