Monday, July 4, 2022

Can Nicolas Pepe play at centre-back?

David Nugent in General Soccer News 29 Jul 2019

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The above question is one I had to research when I saw that Arsenal had a bid of around £72million accepted for the highly-rated Lille winger Nicolas Pepe. In truth, the 24-year-old looks like he could be an exciting signing for the Gunners, but he is a very attacking addition to their squad.

It seems that the north London club have strengthened in every position but the one they need most this summer: centre-back!

Signing Pepe could be a coup for Arsenal

Signing Nicolas Pepe this summer could be a big coup for the north London club. Many clubs have been linked with a move for the undoubtedly talented Ivory Coast international after a stellar campaign in Ligue One.

A record of 22 goals and 11 assists is not to be sniffed at, even in a league that is regarded as far weaker than the top three leagues in Europe. His performances for Lille earned him comparisons with international teammate Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

There are lots of positives to signing Pepe. Therefore, you would wonder why I asked the question in the title of this very article well the next section will reveal all.

Arsenal are terrible in defence

There is no other way of putting it. Last season, only Manchester United out of the top nine teams in the Premier League conceded more goals than the Gunners 51. It was only their forward prowess that kept them the north Londoners so close to the top-four.

The situation at centre-back this summer looks worse than ever. Club captain Laurent Koscielny may never play for the club again after a rift that has seemingly appeared from nowhere. Obviously, something has happened behind the scenes that we will probably never know about.

Young Rob Holding has just recovered from a major injury. He is back in training, but could still miss the start of the season. From the form he showed prior to his injury, the former Bolton star is Arsenal’s best defensive hope.

Sokratis is okay but okay does not get you into the Champions League. The less said about Shkodran Mustafi the better. The Germany international seems to be the scapegoat for the Gunners defensive problems. However, often he is the cause of those problems. He is certainly not the solution.

They signed young French centre-back Willian Saliba from St, Etienne for £27million, yet he will not move to the club until next summer. That will not help their defence this season. Saliba is just 18-years of age, so maybe he was not the solution anyway.

However, where is the defensive solution for Arsenal? The Gunners have suffered from the same defensive problems in recent years, yet they have not addressed them.

Arsenal not out of the running for a top-four spot next season

The fact that Arsenal’s attack is so strong and would be even stronger with the addition of Pepe, will always give the Gunners a chance of finishing in the Premier League’s Champions League spots.

Arsenal are currently odds of 6/4 to qualify for the Champions League next season. If the Gunners would have strengthened their defensive options this summer, then they would have a good chance of making the top-four.

The battle for a top-six and top-four spot in the Premier League could be pretty open. Therefore, the Gunners are not out of the running for a Champions League spot next season.

However, the same defensive problems are likely to exist. The likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Pepe, if he signs, are going to have to work incredibly hard to negate their teams’ defensive weaknesses.

It will be interesting to see if Arsenal indeed do get the Pepe deal over the line and if the Gunners sign defensive reinforcements this summer.

Will Arsenal strengthen their defence this summer?


David Nugent

David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The experienced writer has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.



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