Cultured left foot that provided amazing dribbles, bullet shots, awesome volleys and incredible goals was something former Arsenal striker and captain, Robin Van Persie treated Arsenal fans with during his time at the club.
Though his stint at the club was plagued by injuries but the period he was fit, he fired from all cylinders scoring over 100 Premier League goals and winning the golden boot in his final season at Arsenal. His move to old foes and Premier League rivals was a bitter pill to swallow for Arsenal fans and till date, his thoughts on the lips of fans leaves a sour taste.
Since his exit, other top players have signed for Arsenal; Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Pierre Emeric Aubamenyang amongst others but none seem to be like him. That cultured left foot seems so elusive but a close look at the Gunners squad and one can see someone who looks so much like him in footballing style and that is the much maligned Nicholas Pepe.
Since his arrival from Lille for a record fee last season, the Ivorian winger has been flicking on and off. Just last weekend, he was the butt of jokes after getting sent off against Leeds for violent conduct but with apologies to his teammates, manager Mikel Arteta threw him into the fray in the midweek Europa League clash against Norwegian side, Molde FC and there he had a stunner of a game.
He played in ways similar to the Van Persie, the Dutchman Arsenal fans regret to forget. In the game, he was Arsenal’s most dangerous player with Most touches (80),Most crosses (12), Most touches in opposition box (11), Most take-ons completed (9), Most shots (6), Most chances created (4) and Joint most shots on target (2). Of all the stats, the one that caught the eye the most were his shots on target.
They were reminiscent of the the Dutchman. For the first that cannoned off the bar, he got the ball, took a few touches, beating his man in the process and unleashed a blinder that stuck the bar. For the second shot on target, it was a control and a shot that was simply unstoppable. Something was constant for both shots and that is the fat that he did not take too many touches before taking a shot.
Nicholas Pepe is not the finished article yet but he has bags of potentials if well harnessed could turn him into a beast of a player. He needs to learn to cut off unnecessary dribbles and too many touches off the ball. His dead ball ability is good but could be better. He has a lethal left foot so he needs to shoot more.
The comparison with Robin Van Persie might be far fetched now but the similarities are there. He might not have the luxuries Van Persie enjoyed as he does not have great players like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to learn from but he has Pierre Emeric Aubamenyang and a look at footages of those past legends, Van Persie inclusive, could help him grow into those boots and who knows, it might just fit perfectly.