Nicolas Pepe’s red card in last weekend’s match against Leeds United is yet another chapter in an underwhelming Arsenal story.
Nicolas Pepe at Lille was a star in the making. Combining pace with a lethal left foot and wonderful dribbling skills, he was the French side’s crown jewel. His final season in France saw him produce 33 goals/assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances. These performances saw him linked with Bayern Munich and Liverpool, but he eventually landed at Arsenal for a club record £72 million fee. However, from there, his career has gone down hill and dramatically so.
Though occasionally showing promise, the lethal finishing that he showed in France all but disappeared. There were of course flashes of his undoubted talent, but they were too few and far between. This season has only seen him slide further down the Gunners pecking order. After initially showing promise on the right hand side of Mikel Arteta’s attack, he has lost his place to Willian.
Desperate for playing time, Pepe admitted to French outlet Canal +, he wants more playing time and is ‘frustrated on the bench’. Against an adventurous Marcelo Bielsa team, his pace and one on one dribbling ability should have been perfect.
However, as with a many of his previous opportunities, Pepe let this slip. After clashing with Leeds left back Ezgjan Alioski, he fell right into the Macedonian’s trap, butting his head towards him. Did Alioski exaggerate the contact? Of course he did. However, At 0-0 with the game in the balance for a 25-year-old international player to be making that decision is ludicrous.
His manager described the action as unacceptable and it’s hard to see Pepe recovering his place in the lineup any time soon. There is undeniably talent there somewhere. At his best, he has been a direct threat and frightened the life out of opposition full backs.
However, he needs to start showing his ability on a more consistent basis. If he doesn’t, it’s yet more money in what seems an increasingly unlikely pursuit of sustained success for the Gunners.