Will the real Pepe please stand up?
Nicolas Pepe, the man lumbered with the tag of ‘Arsenal’s most expensive player’ is still to light the touchpaper on what is his explosive skill and talent. We have seen flashes of this – last season when he grabbed double figures for goals in an intermittent season – a debut season as well – not to mention the way he blitzed so-called world class defenders with his trickery and pace.
Yet here we are, in his second full season and he is unable to hold down the right side of attack.
Mikel Arteta seems to prefer the experienced option of Willian. And while the Brazilian offers plenty, Pepe can change a game with one drop of his shoulder. He can score a goal from plenty of situations. He is a game changer.
And that is why he is on the bench.
Game changers affect matches in a big way.. And coming from the bench, against tired legs? Pepe can have a huge impact. But the stigma of being benched when you cost the club £72m is starting to grow a little louder. Pepe is, at this moment in time, a squad player.
When he should be standing side by side with Aubameyang as one of our star players.
We can’t question he has it in his tank, but what the player needs is a run of games. Give him the shot and we will see that in terms of goal involvements, we won’t have anyone better – save our number14 of course.
The Ivorian is being restricted to a bit-part when he should be at least the supporting actor in the great Arsenal play.
We need our best players to step up but if match sharpness and match rhythm is not there, it lessens the impact Pepe will have. It is an understated variable for players but we expect them to jump off the bench and instantly do something. But playing week in and week out will bring the best from players – not thirty minutes here and there and a full cup game.
We will see Pepe in a bigger way this season. No pre-season and a flux of games in a short space of time will no doubt stretch our squad. If Pepe can stay fit while injuries are being incurred, he will get his chance.
And then we will see the real Pepe.
Patience is yet again key for us fans.