Right out of the blue, Arsenal and Lille got to an agreement over the transfer of winger Nicolas Pepe.
Even though the deal is structured in instalments (as deals normally are), it’s intriguing to see that the Arsenal hierarchy are willing to cough out that much on a single player.
The much-hyped Ivorian has just had a brilliant season with Lille, and his goals helped fire them to a second-place finish in Ligue 1.
Nicolas Pépé’s 2018-19 Ligue 1 season by numbers:
118 total shots
108 fouls won
102 take-ons completed
70 chances created
A move to the Premier League could be close. 👀 pic.twitter.com/BkXoTehDCz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 27, 2019
The £72m Arsenal look set to spend on Nicolas Pepe – will make him the third-most-expensive player signed by a Premier League club and will also make him Arsenal’s record transfer signing.
But how much would he improve Arsenal?
This player analysis will show how his stats compare to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s; the player currently occupying his most likely position at the club. Is he a significant upgrade to what the Gunners previously had? Let’s have a look at that below.
Pepe will join an Arsenal side who already have a world-class attack. Both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have proven they have what it takes to excel in the Premier League after scoring 50 goals between them last campaign.
But when both strikers are not scoring, are they getting enough goal contributions from the flanks? Seemingly not.
Pepe scored an impressive 22 goals last season from midfield. His 22 goal tally in the French League alone was better than Mkhitaryan had in all competitions combined (8).
While Pepe significantly had more minutes to play (3332 compared to Mkhitaryan’s 1645 minutes), the goal expectancy shows Pepe averaged a goal every 151 minutes and by far dwarfs the Armenian’s average of a goal every 274 mins.
That’s a goal every 151 minutes, and an assist every 302 minutes, and one or the other every 100.9 minutes. Very impressive stats coming from a midfielder.
The Ivorian also took 3.1 shots per game and averagely made 1.8 key passes per game. Again, he is by far better off compared to Mkhitaryan’s 2 shots per game and average of 1.2 key passes as well.
This summarizes the simple fact that Pepe is a much better attacking option than the Armenian. He could as well offer a different solution on a day when any of the Arsenal strikers are having a tough ride upfront.
Perhaps not as much as important a context, considering the players in question are attackers.
It is, however, important to note that Mkhitaryan is a much better option with regards to defensive qualities.
The Armenian makes a superior 1.1 tackles per game compared to Pepe’s 0.7 tackles in the same frame.
Mkhitaryan also wins the race in interceptions per game. His 0.6 average considerably up on Pepe’s 0.3 interceptions per game.
There is a much stern contest in passing abilities between both players. Arsenal’s record signing makes an average 1.8 key passes per game with a pass accuracy of 79.1%.
Mkhitaryan, on the other hand, makes a slightly less 1.2 key passes per game and marginally tops Pepe with a pass accuracy of 79.9%.
While the majority of Arsenal’s midfield options usually aim for a killer pass; the Ivorian, however, offers a different kind of approach to his style of play. His quick runs and direct dribbling can bring a sense of balance to the Arsenal front line.
A majority of his goals were scored through quick counter-attacks, shots from one-two passes with a teammate or latching on to a through ball and beating his marker to go through on goal.
This could be very innovative for Arsenal’s attack particularly in games where the opposition defence is proving difficult to let a pass slip through.
Whether Emery decides to use Pepe strictly on the flanks or give him a more prominent role going forward, the Ivorian is well equipped to suit either situation.
Lille played a similar 4-2-3-1 formation to Arsenal last season. One which Pepe played on the right flank, the current position played by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Taking that into consideration, the Ivorian should not have a hard time fitting into Arsenal’s current formation.
While there is still some debate on whether Arsenal should have spent that much for an already decent attack(without investing in the defence yet); one thing is certain.
The fact that the Gunners have snapped up a top talent that will greatly improve the attacking potent of the team.
Arsenal will be hoping the addition of Nicolas Pepe will inspire the club to their first top-four finish in two years.