Pepe over Zaha the right choice for Arsenal
Having spent all summer chasing Wilfried Zaha, Arsenal have made a late swerve and are now poised to complete a club-record £72million deal for Lille forward Ni
Given they entered the transfer window amid reports of being cash-poor, the Gunners have shocked many with their move for Pepe but have they gone for the right tricky winger after digging down the back of the sofa to find the funds?
When put head-to-head in terms of goals and assists last season, Pepe is the clear winner having notched 22 times in Ligue 1 while also registering 11 assists. In comparison, Zaha hit the back of the net 10 times and recorded five assists but arguably at a higher level.
However, Arsenal aren’t just on the lookout for another goalscorer given they already have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette on the books, two players who combined for over 50 goals last term.
Since the departure of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United, the north London outfit have lacked a player who isn’t afraid to try and beat his man. They had just one player in the top 20 Premier League dribblers last season with Alex Iwobi 20th having attempted 85 dribbles, way behind top dog Zaha with 224.
Pepe completed the third most mazy runs in Ligue 1 last season but had fewer dribbles per game than Zaha. Despite having fewer run, Pepe created more chances for his team mates than Zaha, who probably would have had more assists last season had it not been for a hapless Crystal Palace frontline.
With Arsenal reportedly in pole position to sign Lille's Nicolas Pepe for €80m, here's what Gunners can expect from the Ivorian! pic.twitter.com/wsBTJkjLNR
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) July 27, 2019
The dribbling statistics might not seem that important but Arsenal have seen their chances created per game average drop since Sanchez left, with Iwobi having failed to grasp the opportunity presented to him by the Chilean’s departure.
Zaha’s ability to drive at a defender and get into the box resulted in him winning numerous penalties last term and Arsenal will hope Pepe can do a similar job. With the introduction of VAR for the 2019/20 Premier League season, it is widely expected there will be an increase in the number of penalties being awarded at the start of the campaign.
It means players like Zaha and Pepe will be worth their weight in gold, which is partly why they are so expensive.
At the end of the day, Lille’s willingness to accept a structured offer means doing business with the French side, over Crystal Palace, was a lot easier. The Eagles don’t want to sell Zaha and who can blame them given how vital he has been in recent seasons.
The man most disappointed by Arsenal’s decision to go for Pepe is Zaha, the boyhood Gooner being denied his dream move when at the peak of his powers.
The excitement for Pepe is building amongst the north London faithful, who have put their desire to see a new defender to arrive to one side in order to enjoy the talents the Ivory Coast international has to offer.