Football News

Seven stats that show Nicolas Pepe offers Arsenal exactly what Unai Emery was missing – and where he needs to improve

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:05, 27 August 2019 | Updated: 16:12, 30 August 2019

When Arsenal announced the £72m signing of Nicolas Pepe earlier this month, Gunners fans were filled with excitement.

The Ivorian winger made a name for himself as an attacking star in Ligue 1 with Lille, scoring 22 goals and recording 11 assists. Only Kylian Mbappe was directly involved in more goals in Ligue 1 last season, which represents stellar company to be in.

Some Gunners supporters may not have necessarily expected the 24-year-old to make an impressive start to life in England, but the forward is already looking ready to hurt opposition defences.

Five things to know about Nicolas Pepe…

  • Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille for £72m earlier this summer.
  • The 24-year-old scored 22 goals and recorded 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.
  • Pepe also completed 101 take-ons; the third-highest total in the division.
  • And this season he has started in similar form, completing 11 take-ons so far.
  • No Premier League player has recorded more this season.

No player has completed more take-ons than Pepe (11) in the Premier League so far this season, level with James Maddison and Mateo Kovacic.

However, the Ivorian has played fewer minutes than his rivals with a total of 154, averaging 6.43 take-ons per 90 minutes. Pepe’s 11 completed take-ons have come from 17 attempts, boasting an impressive success rate of 64.71%.

Premier League 2019/20 top dribblers so far:

1. Nicolas Pepe (11)
= Mateo Kovacic (11)
= James Maddison (11)
4. Wilfried Zaha (10)
5. Ricardo Pereira (9)
= Anthony Martial (9)
= Roberto Firmino (9)
8. Manuel Lanzini (8)
= Raul Jimenez (8)
= Emerson (8)
= Nathan Redmond (8)
= Enda Stevens (8)

Seven of Pepe’s 11 take-ons came in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool last weekend, the most by a Gunners player in a single Premier League game since Jack Wilshere also managed seven against Brighton in March 2018.

Pepe also proved himself against one of the best defenders in the league, Virgil van Dijk, by doing something no player has done since March 2018 and dribbling past the Dutchman in the Premier League.

Since Mikel Merino got the better of Van Dijk in March 2018, 50 games had passed with the Dutchman on top against attackers, helping him build a reputation as a titan in Liverpool’s defence.

But that streak will have to restart now after Pepe’s visit to Anfield, with the Ivorian joining Arsenal team-mate Alexandre Lacazette as two of the last three players to successfully dribble past Van Dijk in the Premier League – spanning three separate years.

Room to improve

But for all the impressive work Pepe has done in his two Arsenal appearances so far, there is still much for the 24-year-old to improve on to prove his worth.

Despite the good dribbling, Pepe’s performance against Liverpool may well be remembered for a key miss which would have given Arsenal the lead.

The Ivorian picked the ball up inside his own half with a good tackle on Jordan Henderson and led a one-man counter-attack, also beating Andrew Robertson.

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But when the opportunity to shoot came, Pepe’s effort was poor and straight at goalkeeper Adrian – which meant he spurned one of Arsenal’s two ‘Big Chances’ in the match.

Although Pepe does lead the way for chances created for Arsenal in the Premier League this season, with four, only one of those came against Liverpool, a game in which the Gunners needed – but lacked – a creative spark.

The Ivorian also managed four shots at Anfield – the joint-most of any Arsenal player in a single game this season – however, including the effort straight at Adrian, Pepe hit the target twice.