Sports News Wed, 29 Jan 2020

Nketiah, Saka impress as Pepe flops against Bournemouth

For Monday’s FA Cup fourth round clash, Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta picked a very young line-up featuring two 18-year-olds and three 20-year-olds, while the senior player in the attacking quartet was Nicolas Pepe.

With no Diego Rico or Charlie Daniels for Eddie Howe’s men, Jack Simpson (a central defender by trade) again covered at left-back.

Pepe should have been licking his lips, but he never really got into top gear during this match.

After a slow start, featuring two very disappointing crosses in the 15th and 24th minutes, one into no man’s land and heavily overhit, there was a glimpse of his talent.

On the half-hour mark, he received the ball from Eddie Nketiah, brilliantly nutmegged Simpson, and burst into the box, only to shoot for the near post and into the side netting. A shot or pass across goal looked like the better option.

It took great skill to beat a man, but was followed by less-than-optimal decision-making; a microcosm of Pepe’s first season with the Gunners so far.

Right before his 69th-minute withdrawal (as the three less senior attackers all stayed on the pitch), Pepe had a nice stepover, went on the outside and delivered a low cross which was cleared.

With a hefty seven unsuccessful touches in the game – Opta’s way of coding when a player’s first touch is heavy and leads to losing the ball – it was not a night where he took a step towards his true level in an Arsenal shirt.

Alongside Pepe in attack was Anglo-Ghanaian striker Eddie Nketiah.

After a frustrating loan spell this season at Leeds United that saw him play all of his first 15 league games as a substitute – notching two match-winning goals and one late equaliser – he then started two games before the end of his loan.

Leeds were clearly trying to convince him to stay, but Arsenal were not happy with his level of involvement even though Marcelo Bielsa clearly liked him, and praised his professional behaviour during his time at Elland Road.

However, the legendary Argentinean coach also commented that the striker is more of a finisher than someone to link play from the front.

For that reason, there was plenty to be impressed by against Bournemouth.

Although there were some giveaways when dropping off to show for the ball, his movement was exactly what Arteta clearly wants. As Alexandre Lacazette does, so Nketiah looked to drag a centre-back out, lay off quickly and then attack the box.

Source: Goal.com
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