Ever since arriving from Lille in the summer of 2019, it is safe to say that Nicolas Pepe has not been a smash-hit. The Ivorian winger’s tenure in England has been marred with inconsistency, and he has barely managed to justify his enormous price tag that Arsenal paid to secure his services.
Pepe has had displayed occasional flashes of brilliance – just like he did against Leicester City in last night’s Premier League outing – as Arsenal fans have not lost their hopes of seeing him thrive for the Gunners, but they instead have pointed out one vital element for Pepe to truly play at his best week in week out for the team that splashed the big bucks on him.
Pepe started for Arsenal in last night’s Premier League outing against Leicester City and registered his name on the score sheet as Arsenal emerged 3-1 winners against the Foxes.
The right-back playing behind him
Pepe’s exploits on the right-wing coincided with him starting alongside Cedric Soares instead of Hector Bellerin at right-back – and the Arsenal faithful saw a lot of difference in Pepe’s overall game.
The Portuguese fullback is in his own right, a proper old fashioned fullback who holds the line and overlaps beyond his winger – as he did brilliantly last night.
Some Arsenal fans pointed out that Soares’ skill set is everything that the regular right-back Hector Bellerin isn’t – which makes Pepe a much more effective customer when playing alongside Soares rather than Bellerin.
Soares’s overlapping style draws defenders to himself, leaving Pepe to operate in space so that the Ivorian can do what he does best – take on opposition defenders at will.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that Pepe’s potential is sky-high, and regular action for Arsenal both in the Premier League and in the Europa League will help him get into his zone and justify his club breaking the bank for him in 2019.
And according to a lot of Arsenal fans, playing alongside Cedric Soares instead of Hector Bellerin will definitely help in Pepe getting to his best faster than usual and truly unlock his potential to give Arsenal the player that they spent close to £70m two summers ago.
Check out the reactions below –
Nicolas Pépé wanted to play with “a RB who constantly overlaps,drawing players so he has room to operate”— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) February 28, 2021
•Cédric & Pépé found each other 31 times vs Leicester
•Compared to 7 passes between Pépé & Bellerín vs Man City
Pépé’s performance today was one of his best for Arsenal. pic.twitter.com/14Ey0h159z
Just watching the highlights back of today’s game & you can clearly see Pepe flourished having Cedric in behind. Gives us so many more options when both full backs are dangerous.— 4 The Arsenal (@4TheArsenal_) February 28, 2021
One thing I noticed about this goal and why Cedric is so much better to get the best out of Pépé instead of Bellerin is how he bust a gut to overlap him. Dragging the defender away to create extra space. Small things make a huge difference.— TikiTakaConnor (@TikiTakaConnor) February 28, 2021
Nicolas Pépé is so much more effective with Cédric rather than Bellerín. The difference is night and day.— Patrick Timmons (@PatrickTimmons1) February 28, 2021
So Pépé eventually plays with a right back that gives him the ball and he looks like the most dangerous player on the pitch.— William (fan account) (@OzilThings) February 28, 2021
Coincidence? I think not
Cedric overlap AGAIN for the Pepe goal. It's the simple things mannnn— Chiddy
(@chiddyafc) February 28, 2021
Allow him to operate in the areas he thrives in, Give him the ball quickly so that he can isolate his opponent in a 1v1, have players within close proximity to combine with and he will flourish. He is my player and I know how good he can be. GET IN ARSENAL!!— RohanJivan (@RjArsenalBlog) February 28, 2021
I've said it time and time again: Pepe excelled at Lille with Celik playing RB behind him. A proper old fashioned full back that holds the line and overlaps. Everything that Bellerin isn't. That's why he plays so much better with Cedric.— SamW (@SamW_AFC) February 28, 2021