Nicolas Pepe should be judged on his performances and not his price tag

20 May 2021 02:00

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has repeatedly been labelled a flop, a waste of money, and his signing for £72m has since been referred to as the 'worst decision the club has ever made in the transfer market'.

But when judging the 25-year-old and whether or not he's worthy of a first-team place at Arsenal, you've got put his price tag to one side. Very few players would be able to live up to such a huge transfer fee and the level of expectation that comes with it has robbed Pepe of the time he needed to settle in at the club.

Pepe's brace at Selhurst Park on Wednesday helped keep the Gunners' hopes of playing European football next season alive, and never has a 90 minute period been more indicative of the player's strengths and weaknesses.

The former Lille man has always carried a goal threat and it's why despite being overlooked for large periods this season many fans have campaigned for him to be given a run of games. However, similarly to a young Theo Walcott, Pepe can be incredibly frustrating in between those moments and cause his boss, and fans alike, to have doubts over whether or not he warrants his place in the starting 11.

He can go from complete anonymity to a display of brilliance in minutes, can glide past defenders with ease only to tie himself up in knots seconds later. His unpredictability is as much of a strength as a weakness because as a defender, it can be impossible to anticipate his next move. Untidy touches and wayward passes mean he's far from the most aesthetically pleasing player at Arsenal, but you've got to take the rough with the smooth.

For all the praise that Bukayo Saka has received this season (and rightly so), Pepe has managed double Saka's season tally of goals in just one more appearance - proof that the extortionate transfer fee has driven the narrative around the Ivorian, rather than his actual contributions.

Nicolas Pepe's goals at Crystal Palace saw him take his season's tally up to 14 | Pool/Getty Images

When he was publicly lambasted by Mikel Arteta following his sending off at Leeds back in November, things appeared ominous for Pepe. To his credit, he has responded brilliantly. An increase in his work rate and defensive contribution have also led to him working his way back into the boss' good books.

Confidence is flowing and that Nicolas Pepe smile is becoming a far more common sight. It was Arsenal who were prepared to invest a record amount of money to land him and it's not unfair to say the club have overpaid for the winger - through no fault of his own.

Judge him on what you see when he crosses the white line and block out the noise, if you can manage that, I think you'll find the Gunners have an incredibly effective winger on their hands who is finally starting to make his mark.

Source: 90min