It’s often said that a struggling player needs a change of scenery to get the best out of them, but sometimes it can be as simple as moving them to the other side of the pitch rather than selling them.
Nicolas Pepe hasn’t really lived up to expectations at Arsenal since arriving from Lille, but he has improved in recent weeks and a switch to the left hand side is bringing the best out of him.
We asked Arsenal legend Michael Thomas about that change, and this is an interesting way of thinking about things:
“Playing Pepe on the left gives him less options and allows him to be more direct.”
Generally speaking you want to have a wide player who can cut inside because that opens up the pitch and gives them multiple options to choose from, but that will only work with a player who’s decisive and is able to make the right decision quickly.
If Pepe is cutting in from the right then he’s immediately going to have at least three or four passing options while he can also decide to go it alone, so it’s understandable that he will make the wrong choice.
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If he’s on the left then his left footedness takes away most of the passing angles, so it leaves him with a couple of players to pick out or he can take his man on and look to shoot or cross.
You can argue that a player who cost so much should be able to play anywhere and Arteta shouldn’t have to simplify the game for him, but great management is about putting your player in the best position to succeed rather than demanding that they fit into your system.
It’s so easy to forget that football is a simple game and overthinking and overcomplicating matters will rarely work out will, so hopefully Pepe can keep up this run of form and prove he was worth the money after all.