🇨🇮 Nicolas Pépé: 2019-20 report card & looking ahead to the new season

🇨🇮 Nicolas Pépé: 2019-20 report card & looking ahead to the new season

Arsenal's record signing endured a difficult start to his debut season at the Emirates Stadium but he finished 2019-20 with an FA Cup winner's medal around his neck. 

An assist in the final for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's decisive strike against Chelsea at Wembley was the perfect way for Nicolas Pépé to draw a line under a season in which Arsenal struggled for consistency. 

In many ways, the form of the 25-year-old Ivorian was a mirror for his club's own displays with up and down performances infuriating Gooners all season during a campaign which seemed to last forever. The immense pressure associated with being Arsenal's record signing hardly helped his cause. 

£72m (approx. €80m) is a staggering amount of money no matter how you look at it. Subsequent investigations conducted by the club evaluating whether or nor they overpaid for the Ivorian make sense in the current financial climate with COVID-19 now a genuine reality in football and indeed the world in general. An already-distorted football market now looks even murkier. 

⚡️ Pépé the creator

Whatever your stance happens to be, Pépé's performances should be analysed with cold hard stats but then tempered by a human approach. Five goals & six assists in the Premier League is an output which the player himself publicly criticized ahead of the FA Cup final which is a promising soundbite from a player who demands more from himself. Still, he provided more assists than any other Arsenal player in all competitions in 2019-20. In the context of their worst Premier League finish since 1995 and a team struggling to create clear-cut chances, that isn't bad going. 

Pépé was a highly-creative figure for a counter-attacking Lille team that never enjoyed long periods of possession. Now, he's faced a culture shock where Arsenal has the lion's share of the ball against most Premier League opponents. 

🏃🏾‍♂️ Pépé can draw into wins

Arsenal's tally of 14 draws in the Premier League was the joint-most of any team in the top flight along with Brighton and Wolves. It's an obvious issue for the Gunners that needs resolving, and Pépé is the type of game-breaker that can bust games open with his directness on the ball. He's a highly technical dribbler with explosive speed and an eye for a killer pass. He is undoubtedly and primarily a creator rather than a goal-scorer, but he also possesses a sublime left-footed curling finish (goals against Brighton and West Ham are proof). 

Pépé is the only genuine ball-carrier in Mikel Arteta's squad and against technically superior opponents like Man City, these skills become invaluable as he looks to relieve the pressure and transition from defence to attack. He frustrated the Arsenal faithful on numerous occasions when he held onto the ball for a fraction of a second too long before making a pass, but with a season under his belt now, those decision-making skills have to improve.

🎓 Verdict

Better decisions in the final third are needed for Nicolas Pépé to become a top-class Premier League operator but it's clear that he has the ability to make it work. C+

As they say in football, the way you finish a season has a direct influence on how you start the next, and that bodes well for Nicolas Pépé and Arsenal under Mikel Arteta. 

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