the three letters tar inside a cannon
article banner
HarryHyde avatar


How Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ben White can unlock Nicolas Pepe's full potential

After arriving for a club record fee of £72 million in the summer of 2019, Nicolas Pepe was expected to hit the ground running, and although many may argue it’s taken a while for him to find his feet, his performances last season have given him the perfect platform to build upon.The Ivorian born winger had a landmark 20/21 campaign, scoring 10 Premier League goals in 29 appearances, with 13 of those coming from the bench. His impressive form is even more eye-catching when you take into account the below-par season The Gunners had. For the first time in 26 years, Arsenal failed to qualify for a major European competition, and despite the addition of the “UEFA Conference League”, Spurs managed to get the edge over Arsenal in the final game-week, making it a campaign to forget.Despite the negative aroma that appeared to be lingering over the Emirates, the Kroenke’s promised a huge budget this summer, with Arteta hinting at a “ruthless squad over-haul” that so far, does not seem to be taking place.Unfulfilled promises aside, the signing of 21-year-old Belgian midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga is certainly a signing that Nicolas Pepe can look at with a smile, with his impressive long-range passing ability enabling him to receive the ball in behind more often. We were able to see this partnership in action during Arsenal’s Pre-Season defeat to Chelsea.Lokonga’s pass in this scenario actually lead to what should have been an equalising goal, as-well as giving Arsenal fans a taste of what is hopefully to come.In addition to £15 million Lokonga, Arsenal also confirmed the £50 million marquee signing of Brighton star Ben White. With Arteta wanting the Gunners to play it out from the back, Ben’s composure and ability to pick the right pass will prove key to Mikel's long-term game-plan.As well as being an important asset to Mikel Arteta, Ben will prove to be another key in the padlock to unlocking Pepe’s full potential.Above is a graphic that shows how Ben White can turn a nothing scenario into a real goal-scoring chance, specifically when passing down the right-flank. I would expect to see Nicolas making more runs in behind this season in an attempt to benefit from the additions of Lokonga and White.Advert InsertedBen White’s passing profile is very reminiscent of David Luiz’s, a player who Arsenal have recently lost. Ben is a very similar mold of player overall, and at the age of just 23, I think it’s safe to say that the Gunners have finally found their long-term ball-playing center-back.Focusing specifically on Nicolas Pepe, it will be interesting to see how he builds on his successful 20/21 campaign. Nicolas was widely considered as a strong favourite for Arsenal’s Player Of The Year, however, was narrowly beaten to it by the Hale End star-boy Bukayo Saka.May was Nicolas’ best month, with him being nominated for the Premier League’s Player of the month after an impressive run of games, scoring 5 goals in only 3 starts. If Pepe can carry this form into the 21/22 season, I have no doubts he will be Arsenal’s player of the year.32 year old Brazilian winger Willian is the only man who can stand in Nicolas' way this season. It is undeniable that Pepe has a bigger impact on games, however Arteta seems adamant to get his money's worth out of what currently stands as one of the worst Arsenal transfers in recent history. He may have signed for free, but his wages are astronomical for somebody who offers very little to the Arsenal squad and ultimately only acts as an object in the way of Pepe's progression.With Thomas Partey expected to miss the opening part of the season, Lokonga has the perfect opportunity to prove his worth to Arteta, and if his pre-season performance against Chelsea is anything to go off, Arsenal fans have every reason to get excited, his connection with Pepe could be a season-changing partnership that may spring Arsenal back into the top 6.Overall, the 'ruthless squad over-haul' Arsenal fans were promised may not be happening, but the additions so far have certainly been the right ones, and with key players like Pepe entering their prime years, Arsenal may have a better season than many expect.