Quick enough? You bet. Strong enough? Undoubtedly. Nicolas Pepe cost Arsenal a club record £72 million and at Anfield there were glimpses of why manager Unai Emery invested so heavily.
For much of the time, the 24-year-old was handed something of a thankless task. He was alone up against Ballon d’Or candidate Virgil van Dijk and the formidable Joel Matip.
He was forced to feed off scraps but when given the chance, he came close, so close to using his pace and power to punish Liverpool. And he got the better of the highly-rated Van Dijk after the otherwise dependable Jordan Henderson gave him a gift with a stray pass.
Nicolas Pepe shone on his first full start for Arsenal in their 3-1 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield
Pepe gave Liverpool’s defence a stern test with his pace, power and trickery out wide
Pepe’s display was all the more impressive given the lack of service from Arsenal’s midfield
Pepe accelerated, left the Dutchman in his slipstream and closes in on Adrian’s goal. But the goalkeeper managed to smother his shot. He had earlier sent an effort just wide. Glimpses of what is to come once Pepe has acclimatised to the demands of the Premier League.
And – of course – once Arsenal are playing on the front foot rather than defend deep in an attempt to frustrate their opponents.
Pepe has control that is more than decent and a physical presence that will trouble central defenders in the months to come.
He would have known what to expect from his mentor at Lille – one Nicolas Anelka who coaches the strikers at the French club from where he was signed.
The 24-year-old is likely to start against Tottenham next week and should see more of the ball
Occasional help came from Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang but what the strikers needed was more adventure from midfield to give them meaningful possession.
How he must have been envious of the service given to the likes of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. But to his credit, he never baulked from his duties. He chased and he pressed. He never gave up.
Next Sunday may provide a more accurate guide to what Pepe can bring when Arsenal will without question have to adopt a more attacking approach at the Emirates when they take on Tottenham.
Arsenal will have to push forward. They will have no choice. At Anfield, it was more or less damage limitation. On their own patch of North London turf, the fans will demand more and Pepe could well be the beneficiary.
He showed what is possible at Anfield when he has the chance. He brought the best out in Van Dijk and Matip with his ability to run with the ball at pace. Tottenham awaits. Arsenal expects.
Original article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7390949/Arsenal-news-Nicolas-Pepe-shows-glimpses-special-talent-Arsenals-defeat-Liverpool.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490