Arsenal fans would have thought with a reported budget of just £45 million that a majority of summer spending should go towards recruiting a top quality centre back with the Gunners conceding 51 goals in the Premier League last season. Instead, Raul Sanllehi and Unai Emery brought in Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe from Lille for a reported £72 million!
The left-footed winger managed to coup double figures in goals and assists as well as being the only player alongside Lionel Messi to score more than 20 goals as well as bag 10+ assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Arsenal haven’t looked the same attacking outfit without the likes of Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez on the flank and the pressure to score for the side has been solely put on the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Arsenal’s away record since the departure of Alexis Sanchez in the Premier League has been so poor that they have only picked up 2 clean sheets ahead of the new campaign. The reason for this is that they lose possession too regularly in attacking positions and it results in them being hit on the counter too easily with a weak defence. This was a problem shown by Henrikh Mkhitaryan against Newcastle with the Armenian losing possession 23 times!
Arsenal rarely use width and tend to go with attackers who all prefer to play in the creative number 10 role. Pepe will be advised to hold the flank and stretch rigid defences in order to make Arsenal more of a threat to opponents. Close ball control and trickery is something that the Ivorian has in armoury that can be used effectively in making the Gunners more dynamic in their attack.
Expectations for the first season
It will take time for Pepe to settle in and get used to the often spoken about physicality of the Premier League. Although, it is pivotal that he offers greater support to Arsenal’s gunmen up top by chipping in with goal contributions – Henrikh Mkhitaryan managed only 6 league goals as Arsenal’s third top scorer.
With Mesut Ozil also likely to stay for one more campaign it could also mean that Pepe can bring the best out of him by offering runs in behind, which he did so well at Lille, and that can give Arsenal an intelligent approach in tough fixtures.