Expert view on Pepe – The best player in France behind Mbappe who was shaped by Bielsa

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Lille forward Nicolas Pepe arrives to take part in a TV show on May 19, 2019 in Paris, as part of the 28th edition of the UNFP (French National Professional Football players Union) trophy ceremony

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31/07/2019 at 09:34 | Updated 02/08/2019 at 10:06

With Nicolas Pepe having completed his club-record move to Arsenal we spoke to our colleagues in France to give us the expert view on the Ivory Coast winger.

Pepe is reportedly in London having his medical and the deal is expected to be made official by the end of the week.

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He will become Arsenal’s record-signing and instantly add a new level to the attack alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

To find out more we asked Eurosport France’s Cyril Morin for his thoughts on Pepe.

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First things first what kind of player is he?

“A fast one for sure,” according to Morin.

“Very, very dangerous in counter attacks, very fast and efficient in the final third when he has the space to accelerate.

“Very strong on one to one with high quality on dribbles.”

At 24 years of age it is easy to feel as if Pepe has come from nowhere and Morin explains that “He started on low divisions, was named best player of D3 with Orléans in 2015-2016.

Lille's Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Lille (LOSC) and Angers (SCO) at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, near Lille, northern France, on May 18 2019

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“Then, he never stopped progressing at Angers and then at LOSC where Bielsa shaped the player he is now.”

Last season he netted 22 goals in Ligue 1 and according to Morin “went to another dimension” as he became one of the best players in the division and, you’ll like this Arsenal fans, started to really turn up in the big matches.

New Arsenal signing Pepe can't wait to play with Lacazette, Aubameyang and Ozil


“Pepe was always a good talent in Ligue 1, he had the skills and the ability but last year he became a machine, scoring many goals and creating many differences, even against big teams.

“One of his best game was against PSG (5-1 win for Lille) where the Parisian defenders couldn’t stop him. He was decisive in so many games.

Behind Mbappé, he was the best player of the league without any doubts.

But how will he fit into an Arsenal attack that wasn’t exactly struggling for goals last season with Lacazette and Aubameyang. Morin is intrigued to see how it works out.

Honestly, it’s the major question. More than Arsenal, it’s about Premier League and the intensity of it.

Lille's Nicolas Pepe receives trophy of "Dogue de la saison" (best player of season for Lille) at the end of Lille vs Angers at Stade Pierre Mauroy on May 18, 2019 in Lille, France

Image credit: Getty Images

“But with Emery’s tactics, he could become the X factor, the one who creates speed.

“As I said, he’s SO good in counter attacking so if Arsenal manage to give him the ball quickly just after the recuperation, he can create damage.

With Aubameyang and Lacazette, he could form a deadly trio.

However Morin admits that Pepe is still a “work in progress” and has “lots to work on” so it is difficult to say whether or not he is worth the price tag.

“He was one the most talented 'young' footballers available this summer. So yeah, he was always going to cost at least €60 million.

“But you can’t expect him to be the same as Lacazette or Aubameyang when they signed.”


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