Mon. Aug 19th, 2019

How does the arrival of Nicolas Pépé affect Alex Iwobi?

Arsenal FC has had a relatively busy spell in the transfer market this summer, with the North London club having brought in four new players, including smashing her transfer record on the £70m signing of Ivory Coast international, Nicolas Pepe. 

With Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League in two years and the departure of longstanding, iconic manager Arsene Wenger, the Gunners’ new manger Unai Emery had his work cut out at the Emirates. The Spanish gaffer took over a team with obvious lapses in defense and midfield and would undertake a quick revamp of the squad if he was to get the 13-time English League Champions back to reckoning and on the European stage.

The North Londoners however were in turbulent times financially, with the board only able to afford a £50m transfer budget for the 2018/2019 season. This meant that Emery’s options in the transfer market were limited to low cost players and loan players, so he invariably had to stick with Wenger’s players for at least a season and try to squeeze the best out of them. 

One of the players the Spaniard would seek to get the best from was Alex Iwobi. At 23, the Nigerian was still a young prospect and could go on to do great for the club. With the former PSG manager being one who fancies hardwork on the pitch, Iwobi’s commendable work rate was soon to catch the eyes of his new manager, earning him a starting berth in the club’s second league game at Chelsea.

More games for Iwobi meant more expectations and responsibilities. Played often as a left winger last season, Iwobi’s standout attribute was his work rate. Unlike the club’s highest earner, Ozil who offered very little in defense, Iwobi was not only instrumental going forward and opening spaces for the strikers, he also helped in covering up spaces behind in defense. This made him the preferred choice of his manager as he would become a regular face for the gunners. 

Opportunities for the youngster were further bolstered by Mesut Ozil’s apparent fall-out with Emery and persistent injuries to Armenian winger, Henrik Mhikitrayan who both were higher in the pecking order than the Nigerian, whether as playmakers playing the traditional number 10 role or as wide players drafted to the wings. 

However, for all the goodies the young Nigerian brings to the Gunners, there were a lot more he was deficient of, top of which was his often poor decision making especially with his final balls. Seemingly routine arts like when to take a shot or pick a pass left the 23-year-old in a dilemma; ultimately making the wrong decisions in the final third which were sometimes costly for the team. This led to the manager limiting him to substitute roles in the league and cup games. 

With the arrival of Nicolas Pepe ahead of the 2019/2020 English Premier League season, there could be more trouble for Alex Iwobi. Pepe’s credentials are well documented and his abilities well certified. With 23 goals and 11 assists in 43 matches for Lille last season, the Ivorian International is no doubt an upgrade on Arsenal’s wide players – Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Maitland-Niles and Nketiah. 

Pepe however operates from the right wing, a position often occupied by the former Borousia Dortmund playmaker, Mkhitaryan or less often, either of the striking pair of Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette. This ordinarily should mean Iwobi’s left wing is still up for grabs, but that’s not entirely the case. 

With Pepe guaranteed a place in the starting eleven, one player will have to be dropped for him. But, that’s not just it. Unai Emery will also fancy starting his new acquisition alongside the deadly duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette. If that happens, that will mean the Gabonese forward, Aubameyang dropping to the left wing with Pepe on the right while Lacazette leads the line in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 diamond formation. 

In a more complicated scenario, Emery may be reluctant to throw both Aubameyang and Lacazette on the pitch at the same time, as seen in some part of last season when one had to be on the bench for a natural winger. If this be the case, then Iwobi’s position on the left isn’t threatened after all, and given his telepathic understanding with Sead Kolasinac, he should be untouchable as long as he churns out consistent impressive displays down that flank.

Arsenal FC has had a relatively busy spell in the transfer market this summer, with the North London club having brought in four new players, including smashing her transfer record on the £70m signing of Ivory Coast international, Nicolas Pépé. 

With Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League in two years and the departure of longstanding, iconic manager Arsene Wenger, the Gunners’ new manger Unai Emery had his work cut out at the Emirates. The Spanish gaffer took over a team with obvious lapses in defense and midfield and would undertake a quick revamp of the squad if he was to get the 13-time English League Champions back to reckoning and on the European stage.

The North Londoners however were in turbulent times financially, with the board only able to afford a £50m transfer budget for the 2018/2019 season. This meant that Emery’s options in the transfer market were limited to low cost players and loan players, so he invariably had to stick with Wenger’s players for at least a season and try to squeeze the best out of them. 

One of the players the Spaniard would seek to get the best from was Alex Iwobi. At 23, the Nigerian was still a young prospect and could go on to do great for the club. With the former PSG manager being one who fancies hardwork on the pitch, Iwobi’s commendable work rate was soon to catch the eyes of his new manager, earning him a starting berth in the club’s second league game at Chelsea.

More games for Iwobi meant more expectations and responsibilities. Played often as a left winger last season, Iwobi’s standout attribute was his work rate. Unlike the club’s highest earner, Ozil who offered very little in defense, Iwobi was not only instrumental going forward and opening spaces for the strikers, he also helped in covering up spaces behind in defense. This made him the preferred choice of his manager as he would become a regular face for the gunners. 

Opportunities for the youngster were further bolstered by Mesut Ozil’s apparent fall-out with Emery and persistent injuries to Armenian winger, Henrik Mhikitrayan who both were higher in the pecking order than the Nigerian, whether as playmakers playing the traditional number 10 role or as wide players drafted to the wings. 

However, for all the goodies the young Nigerian brings to the Gunners, there were a lot more he was deficient of, top of which was his often poor decision making especially with his final balls. Seemingly routine arts like when to take a shot or pick a pass left the 23-year-old in a dilemma; ultimately making the wrong decisions in the final third which were sometimes costly for the team. This led to the manager limiting him to substitute roles in the league and cup games. 

With the arrival of Nicolas Pépé ahead of the 2019/2020 English Premier League season, there could be more trouble for Alex Iwobi. Pépé ‘s credentials are well documented and his abilities well certified. With 23 goals and 11 assists in 43 matches for Lille last season, the Ivorian International is no doubt an upgrade on Arsenal’s wide players – Iwobi (6 goals in 51 appearances), Mkhitaryan (6 goals in 36 appearances), Maitland-Niles (2 goals in 30 appearances), and Nketiah (1 goal in 9 appearances). 

Pépé however operates from the right wing, a position often occupied by the former Borousia Dortmund playmaker, Mkhitaryan or less often, either of the striking pair of Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette. This ordinarily should mean Iwobi’s left wing is still up for grabs, but that’s not entirely the case. 

With Pépé guaranteed a place in the starting eleven, one player will have to be dropped for him. But, that’s not just it. Unai Emery will also fancy starting his new acquisition alongside the deadly duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette. If that happens, that will mean the Gabonese forward, Aubameyang dropping to the left wing with Pépé on the right while Lacazette leads the line in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 diamond formation. 

In a more complicated scenario, Emery may be reluctant to throw both Aubameyang and Lacazette on the pitch at the same time, as seen in some part of last season when one had to be on the bench for a natural winger. If this be the case, then Iwobi’s position on the left isn’t threatened after all, and given his telepathic understanding with Sead Kolasinac, he should be untouchable as long as he churns out consistent impressive displays down that flank. But wait a minute! They could still be a problem for the Nigerian in the mould of 19 year old Reiss Nelson, who racked in 7 goals in 23 appearances while on loan at 1899 Hoffenheim last season.

Iwobi had last month, July 2019 debunked reports by the Sun UK that he was going to leave the club if they secured the signing of Crystal Palace’s star forward, Wilfred Zaha in search of game time. If Iwobi struggled for game time in the 2018/2019 season, things might just have gotten worse for the Nigerian this season with the arrival of Nicolas Pépé and he may have to look for another club soon if he desires game-time.

On a broader perspective, Nicolas Pépé’s arrival is good news for the fans as well as the club, but not so good a news for some players, in all, the ball lies in Unai Emery’s court, who plays and who misses out could be down to tactical ingenuity, guts feeling, opposition, fans persuasion, and more so news from the physio room.

Iwobi had last month, July 2019 debunked reports by the Sun UK that he was going to leave the club if they secured the signing of Crystal Palace’s star forward, Wilfred Zaha in search of game time. If Iwobi struggled for game time in the 2018/2019 season, things might just have gotten worse for the Nigerian this season with the arrival of Nicolas Pepe and he may have to look for another club soon if he desires game-time.

On a broader perspective, Nicolas Pepe’s arrival is good news for the fans as well as the club, but not so good a news for some players, in all, the ball lies in Unai Emery’s court, who plays and who misses out could be down to tactical ingenuity, guts feeling, opposition, fans persuasion, and more so news from the physio room.

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