Morning folks. Happy Friday, albeit a grizzly looking one in London, which makes me think that summer has well and truly turned its back on us.
I was going to talk a little bit about Lucas Torreira this morning, as well as the noises that Atletico are standing firm on Partey and trying to get Torreira on a loan deal, but I think that will just wind me up. I just hope Arsenal stay strong, tell Atletico to ‘do one’, but politely enough that we still maintain a positive relationship with them to talk about Partey at some stage in which we have some money to spend.
Instead, I am minded to talk a little about Nicolas Pepe, because i’ve listened to three podcasts since Wednesday on the player and I’m not really sure I agreed with any of them if I’m honest.
In each of these three podcasts the podders themselves have sort of skirted around the questions which is “what is up with Nicolas Pepe?”. That’s me showing some very artistic licence here because the podcasters themselves didn’t specifically say those words, but each has alluded to the fact that he hasn’t quite fired on all cylinders, he hasn’t really hit the heights expected of a £72million attacking player. I will caveat this by saying that all of the people on this podcast have been clear in their desire for Pepe to succeed. They are all Arsenal fans, like me n thee, they all think there is a player in there, but that he hasn’t quite shown it as yet. Again though, I’ll also admit that one journo said that he recognised the FA Cup Final was probably his best game in an Arsenal shirt. Very true indeed methinks.
But perhaps I am in the minority here, but I don’t really harbour any concerns at all in Pepe’s ability, especially after what I saw on Wednesday night against Leicester.
Some have suggested the he didn’t have the greatest of games, that perhaps you need to see more from a guy with high a price tag (again though, as many have already pointed out and so I won’t labour the point, it is not the players fault that we had a nonsensical “contacts-led” strategy which has led to some questionable transfer fees), as well as the fact that as a more senior player in the side on Wednesday he should have had more of an impact. But personally I’m not sure that’s right.
I actually think he DID perform well. Or at least had the makings of somebody who COULD have performed well if he’d have had the right types of player with him to flourish.
Nicolas Pepe is a man who has pace, trickery, a good finish on him. He wants to be able to use those attributes to his advantage and as a result he wants to get in behind his man to catch his full back on the back foot. On Wednesday evening, as I said in my blog yesterday, I saw Pepe make at least three or four runs in which had the Arsenal player in possession seen the pass, he’d have been in behind. We know from his time at Lille that Pepe made a killing from a counter-attacking style of football. That is when he had players running back towards their own goal, putting themselves under pressure and that is where he could capitalise. Pepe is now in a side where hitting teams on the counter is not going to be the norm, so he’s adapted his game, but he is still making the types of movement that if found will reward him and us with end product.
Pepe has close control that baffles defenders. He can turn them inside and out and in almost every game I’ve seen him play he’s demonstrated that. It is true that he is a little one footed, but when you have that close control of the ball, with a leggy/rangy style like he has, it feels to me like it is very difficult to defend against. If he is isolated against a player he can have the beating of him. Providing he is confident. That confidence won’t last if he’s making intelligent runs and then having to check those runs because time after time he just isn’t being found.
I think Nicolas Pepe is a fantastic footballer. I think he’s intelligent, he has weapons at his disposal which will be vital to us if we’re going to be a top four team again. We will need him to shine at Arsenal, but we also need to fill the team with players who have the vision that will find him, spot his intelligent runs. Which again I think underlines the need that I think we all know we have: we need a creative midfielder. We need that person that can pop up in between lines, or can collect the ball, break lines, but then has the vision of the pass. Right now we don’t have that. Xhaka has the ability to distribute, but if we’re picking the ball up with Xhaka on the edge of the middle third in our half, for example, unless Pepe is making a run very early in the build up to a move, Xhaka is not going to spot him. Think about it; if we are passing out from the back and the ball comes to Xhaka depe in our half, if you’re Nicolas Pepe, why are you going to make a lung busting short-distance sprint at such an early stage of the build up? You just aren’t going to do it. But if a player has the ball in the middle of the pack and travels with it over the halfway line, looking for a pass, THAT is when Pepe is going to make his move. Right now we don’t have that player in the team and THAT is why he is suffering from being what we all think he can be for us.
That’s also an issue for other players and Arsenal’s general lack of creativity is an issue that we all know about and are all talking amongst each other about. It is something I hope Arteta finds a solution for. Sooner rather than later.
Catch you all tomorrow.