Sigh…it’s all still just transfer speculation at the moment. I feel like the closer we get to the start of the Premier League restart, the further it appears and whereas this time last week I was like “huh, nearly two week’s and then there’s some football on”, now I’m a bit like “gimmie! gimmie! GIMMIE!” when it comes to our next game.
Even though it’s against Man City, even though it’s most likely going to end up in a few rage tweets and then a blog of disappointment the next day, right now I just want to see some of The Arsenal and so the fact that it’s still a week away…well…it kind of sucks.
And just like that I’m obsessive again. If you read my ramblings on a regular basis you’ll know I was basically casting football aside until towards the end of this year and part of me was glad about that. It gave me more time to do other stuff. But here I am, just like in every pre season, being reeled back in like a big sea bass on a line being snagged. There is no escaping it. My fate has been sealed and the future is inevitable. It’ll be anguish over results, stress during the match, heightened heart rate, drinking more to ‘calm the nerves’ and then digesting every single inch of online content about Arsenal as if it was a freshly baked pizza from Naples.
Yep, I know i’m a flip-flopping and my views change as quickly as the British weather system, but I don’t care. Just give me back football even in it’s sh*ite format and with no fans.
I had a little swing by to see if I could scratch my Arsenal itch this morning and saw a video which was focused on Nicolas Pepe and ‘the best of’ in training as we lead up to it. It was a minute-and-a-half of him standing around, occasionally jogging, taking a decent free kick and basically looking a little nonchalant. I have to say I thought it was a bit weird that the club released such a video because I don’t really know what it was supposed to do. It didn’t really get me excited; far from it, I actually thought “if this is the best one minute and 14 seconds they can find on him, I wonder what he was doing the rest of the time!”
In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Patrick Vieira was a notoriously terrible trainer I believe (I’m sure I’ve heard a Ray Parlour anecdote saying that) but when he got on to the pitch it all changed. Stepping over that white line made a heck of a lot of difference and as long as Pepe keeps delivering when everything kicks off then that’s ok.
And he has delivered this season. Bearing in mind it has been his first season in a new league and with a new team, his end product has been pretty good I would say. He’s made 32 appearances in total, 11 of them were coming on as a sub, and he’s bagged six goals and eight assists in all competitions. There are a few people labelling him a ‘flop’ outside of the Arsenal fanbase – particularly rival fans – but those stats tell a different story. We all know he’s not been as amazing as he looked at Lille but that was a completely different set up. That Lille side was set up to spend most of it’s time hitting teams rapidly on the counter and when you get a Burnley sitting on the edge of their box not offering any space at The Emirates, it means a player like Pepe not only has to learn a new role in a new team in a new country, but he’s also got to adapt his playing style.
I have high hopes for Nicolas Pepe. His ability to contort his body to bemuse opponents helps him to create space that others simply wouldn’t be able to do. He’s got pace and can beat a man. I still think he could do it more than he does, but I think he’s still ‘feeling’ his way into this league. I remember playing five-a-side football with a new set of mates I was introduced to a few years ago. It was my neighbour that invited me along to meet his mates and then you get to know everybody eventually. But that also includes their playing styles and what they’re good at. After about a month I knew who was quicker than me, who had a trick or two in them, who was stronger in terms of upper body strength. But that month leading up to me feeling comfortable I just played it simple. Didn’t try any tricks, didn’t always make the run I wanted to so I could receive the ball, didn’t always go touch tight with certain players. But once I knew my opponents strengths and weaknesses I started to exploit more.
And I wonder if it is the same with Pepe. He’s still working out his opponents each week. Sure, you can watch a load of videos on a player and sure, you can tell yourself in your head what they’re going to do, but the reality is that until you see the whites of their eyes in front of you, you never really have the proper ‘feel’ of somebody.
I acknowledge that some footballers just hit the ground running in the Premier League. But Pepe has never looked like somebody who would explode into instant success to me. I don’t know why, I guess it was just a ‘feeling’, but that’s what I’ve thought. But next season…well…next season I think we’ll see a guy with more confidence and more desire to be able to beat their opponent.
And for today I think I’ll leave it there. Just over a week to go folks. Can’t wait.