It’s been on the cards for a while, but now it’s hard to see a way back into the Arsenal side for Nicolas Pepe.
For the last few weeks fans have been calling for Nicolas Pepe to get a run in the side ahead of the ineffectual Willian, and tonight the stage was set for Pepe to step up and make an impact. He made an impact alright, but not the one he was hoping to make. Unfortunately, it’s something that sums up his Arsenal career, and did we really expect anything different.
Yes, Ezgjan Alioski overreacted and there was minimal contact, but as soon as Anthony Taylor went over to the VAR monitor you knew what was coming. Mikel Arteta summed it up perfectly by bluntly deeming it as ‘unacceptable’. His facial expression told a thousand words.
Pepe, being an experienced footballer, should have known the consequences of his actions and that they would potentially cost us three vital points in a must-win game. Now banned for the next three games, you can imagine that it will be longer before we see him anywhere near the first team – if at all again – when you consider Arteta’s treatment of Matteo Guendouzi in the past.
In the likely event that he does find himself out of the team it would probably be the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career. Perhaps a fitting one.
I had high hopes when we signed Pepe last summer, as so did many others considering we were signing one of Europe’s best attackers from the previous campaign. I allowed him a season’s grace to properly bed into the team and get up to speed with the pace of the Premier League, unfortunately, over the last couple of months I have become increasingly underwhelmed by him.
You can question whether this is down to how the team is set up and if Pepe is being misused, but it’s his lack of effort to adapt that is most concerning. Most games appear to pass him by. When he does have the ball he struggles to make things happen, he’s poor at beating his man and for a £72m, his crossing is suspect.
Arsenal seem to have a history of signing flops from Lille, first there was Pascal Cygan who was so bad we sang ‘he’s bald, he’s s**t, he only plays when no ones fit’. Then there was Gervinho, who features in my own personal top ten of the worst Arsenal players of all time, and now Pepe’s career seems to be following the same path.
With youngsters like Reiss Nelson ready to step up and an inpatient fanbase losing all faith in the Ivorian, the likelihood is that Pepe’s time is up. He’s got a long way to go from here.