Why Arsenal were right to spend so much on Nicolas Pepe

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Arsenal have signed Nicolas Pepe from Lille in a record-breaking £72million deal, stunning the footballing world.

With previous bids for the likes of Wilfried Zaha, the Gunners have decided to put their big investment in Pepe, 24.

Younger and perhaps a player with more potential, Pepe could be considered the better long term investment for the club. So let’s take a closer look at why Arsenal are prepared to invest so much in the Ivory Coast international.

Pepe really was the star of the show for Lille last season and picked up 13 man of the match awards according to WhoScored rankings, no Arsenal player managed more than four.

But let’s go beyond the headline stats and look a little closer at what Pepe’s style of play is.

Pepe’s 22 league goals and 11 assists are certainly what initially caught the eye of Europe’s top clubs. His ability to be so prolific from wide areas gives Arsenal something they don’t already have. The likes of Iwobi and Mkhitaryan have not offered enough in the final third over the last couple of seasons.

Arsenal have really lacked ball carrying wide players also with the likes of Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Iwobi struggling to beat tight defences. Iwobi averaged the most successful dribbles of Arsenal players last season (1.3), Pepe with 2.7 really stands out as an improvement. We must, of course remember that Ligue 1 is probably an easier place to take defenders on, but it’s an impressive stat nonetheless.

With the introduction of VAR, Arsenal will need forwards to be aggressive with their dribbling, drawing fouls. Pepe won an average of 2.8 fouls per 90 last season whilst no Arsenal forward averaged more than 0.6 (Aubameyang).

And Pepe can’t just dribble. He has an eye for a pass and is very creative, the thought of him linking up with Aubameyang and Lacazette is exciting. Averaging 1.8 key passes per 90, only Ozil (1.9) managed more in an Arsenal shirt last season.

Standing at 6ft tall and possessing strength and significant pace when carrying the ball, Pepe’s significant physical qualities should not be forgotten. He certainly has the build to succeed immediately in the Premier League, having matured in France.

Arsenal fans will hope the club can now make two more late signings, preferably defenders, with Kieran Tierney amongst those to be linked.

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