Currently, the majority of Arsenal fans remains unconvinced about Nicolas Pepe, and no amount of statistical padding can change that perception. Those who try to defend his record fail to acknowledge why he has failed to convince two managers at Arsenal and had an average season on loan at Nice. If Pepe truly possessed the qualities that justify his defenders, other clubs should be vying for his services, and Arsenal fans would be clamoring for his reintroduction. However, this is not the case.
Take Saliba, for instance. He found himself in a similar situation as Pepe but seized the opportunity to showcase his abilities to Arteta. At 22 years old, Saliba demonstrated the drive and determination necessary to succeed. On the other hand, Pepe, at 28 years old, should take personal responsibility, push himself, and step out of his comfort zone. At this stage in his life, with fatherhood and a professional career, making excuses is not acceptable. Pepe is an adult and should approach his career with the utmost dedication.
The reality, supported by objective evidence, is that Pepe has been a disappointment, an average and underwhelming signing. Mentally and psychologically, he appears weaker compared to his teammates. Other young players, such as Saliba, ESR, Nketiah, Odegaard, and Martinelli, faced uncertainty, but fought through it without waiting for pity. They possess a winning mentality, unlike Pepe.
We were all frustrated with how our players cracked under pressure in recent seasons, but why should we make excuses for someone with an even weaker personality than the rest? Managers cannot afford to coddle players who lack mental fortitude. They face pressure to deliver results and cannot cater to individuals who refuse to take personal responsibility.
A first-team squad comprises over 30 players, and the manager cannot babysit each and every one of them. It is impossible to please millions of fans with their personal favorite players. The manager must make decisions based on what he deems appropriate. Those who rely solely on isolated statistics fail to understand the complexities of the game. Statistics must be analyzed in context and supported by substantive evidence.
If I am honest, I now believe that Pepe has been a major disappointment. He possesses a one-paced, one-dimensional playing style, despite entering his prime years at 28. He often displays a self-pitying attitude, which is unbecoming of a professional footballer. It has been Pepe’s responsibility to challenge himself after joining a prestigious club. Managers cannot devote excessive time to nurturing a 28-year-old man. They have multiple players and other responsibilities to manage. Players must take personal responsibility and provide a challenge that cannot be ignored.
Managers are not there to coddle players in real life. Individuals must apply themselves, and managers utilize their talent within the work environment. Pepe’s poor performances, combined with his mentality and attitude, suggest that he is not cut out for top-level football. While he may be a pleasant person, elite football demands mental toughness, which Pepe seems to lack. The exorbitant transfer fee and wages invested in him have not been justified, as he has been consistently underwhelming throughout his time at Arsenal.