Now that club record signing Nicolas Pépé has played six games in the Premier League and one game in the Europa League for Arsenal, it seems an appropriate juncture to have a look at the early statistics for the 24-year old Ivory Coast international.
A few months ago, former Arsenal club legend Nigel Winterburn said in an exclusive interview that he thought Nicolas Pépé was the perfect signing for Arsenal. Whilst it may be too early to reach a definitive judgement as to whether he is right or not, one thing that is already evident is that the young right winger performs better when he plays the full 90 minutes, as he did against Liverpool, Tottenham, Watford and Aston Villa, where according to the statistics, he achieved player scores of 7.37, 8.07, 7.12 and 7.92. Never below 7.00!
When he plays only 45 minutes or less, his results are less impressive: 6.06, 7.53 (playing 45 minutes) and 6.88. Of course, the longer a player is on the pitch the more he can achieve during the game. But even when taking this into account, the advice for Unai Emery is clear: put Nicolas Pépé in your starting eleven.
Of course, statistics are not the be all and end all when it comes to judging a player. Arsenal paid Lille £72 million for Pépé not just because Emery has long coveted a winger in his side but also for his goals. He scored 23 goals for the Ligue 1 side last season, and Gunners fans will be hoping for a similar sort of return from him, once he has settled into his new environment.
Until last Sunday, he had failed to find the net for his new club, and it was evidently starting to weigh on his shoulders a little. It was, therefore, very unselfish of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the designated penalty-taker, to take it upon himself to hand spot-taking responsibility to Pépé, after Matteo Guendouzi was hauled down in the box.
Despite that, it still took nerve for Pépé to step-up and slam the penalty straight down the middle to equalize for the Gunners who were a man down at the time after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had seen red for two first-half yellow card challenges.
That should take some of the burden off Pépé, who was starting to look like a man who was worried about justifying his price tag. Arsenal fans will be hoping that he can relax now he has got that particular monkey off his back.
And they will also point to the example set by two previous Arsenal greats, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. A club record signing himself when he arrived from Inter Milan in June 1995, Bergkamp failed to score in his first six league games for the club, and was ridiculed in the national press and opposition fans as a waste of money. He scored twice in his next game against Southampton, and would go on to enjoy a glittering career in North London, winning three league titles and four FA Cups.
Henry took even longer to get off the mark for the Gunners, first finding the net in his eighth game for the Gunners, coincidentally enough against Southampton. He went on to become the club’s record scorer, the 4th highest Premier League goal scorer of all times, and to be cast in bronze outside the Emirates Stadium.
If Pépé can only be half as good as either Bergkamp or Henry, then Arsenal might have quite a bargain on their hands.