Nicolas Pepe has not had the smoothest debut season in the Premier League, but his supreme talent makes him a great candidate to have a breakout 2020-21.
Instant pressure hits you if you’re a football star who has just made a big-money move in the transfer market. There is simply no avoiding the expectations and the criticism, especially from the media and from rival fans. If you don’t perform up to expectations, or up to the price tag, then you’d better be prepared for that criticism to increase by tenfold.
Nicolas Pepe knows all about this, as Arsenal’s £72 million club-record signing. His debut season in English football was not bad by any means, but it was not exactly up to par in terms of his price tag, or when compared to his performances last season in Ligue 1 with Lille.
This has led to many labeling the Ivorian winger a ‘flop’, although these claims are a bit too harsh for my liking. After all, Pepe has had some great performances this season, and he has scored some crucial goals from the Gunners as well.
Anyone who has watched him play will know how talented he truly is. In terms of pure technical talent, I’m not sure any winger in the Premier League apart from Riyad Mahrez would pip Nicolas Pepe to top spot. Of course, having natural talent doesn’t equate success, but it certainly gives a player something to really build on.
In the few months prior to football being suspended, Nicolas Pepe was performing consistently for the first time since joining the Gunners. This is likely due to the impact Mikel Arteta has made on the team, as the usual inconsistent culprits such as Xhaka and Mustafi have also been playing very well on a regular basis.
This period of consistency is exactly what Nicolas Pepe needed, and you can probably expect him to hit the ground running once football starts back up again.
He was never going to light the league up in his first year. Not only is Ligue 1 vastly different from the Premier League, but Arsenal plays a vastly different style of football compared to Pepe’s former club Lille as well. This was always going to take a period of adjustment, but it seems that Pepe has already moved through that, and is ready to break out of his shell.
Especially if Aubameyang leaves the club, there will be more pressure on Nicolas Pepe to deliver next season for the Gunners. Expect him to do exactly that, as he molds into a star player at the Emirates.