Graeme Souness has revealed which Arsenal prospect Nicolas Pepe, who has suffered an inconsistent first season, reminds him of after the 4-0 Newcastle win on Sunday. The Ivorian cost the Gunners £72m after switching Lille for London and is the club’s record signing. Though the 24-year-old hasn’t always lived up to expectations at the Emirates Stadium and had to wait a while to be fully integrated into previous boss Unai Emery’s Premier League starting eleven. But against the Magpies he was imperious, providing two assists, along with scoring his fourth Premier League goal of the season.
What did he say?
Speaking to Sky Sports after Sunday’s match Souness said: “I like him, I think there is a real, real player in there. If you think of their best ever player, Thierry Henry, coming here, didn’t have a great first year, took a bit of time and I see Pepe being a star here.”
Souness stretching the truth
While Souness’ comments are accurate to some degree as Henry did have a difficult start to life in London, scoring just once in his opening 12 games, but from that moment onward the Frenchman hit the ground running. Arsenal’s all-time top scorer finished his debut campaign on 17 Premier League goals, scoring 16 in his final 19 appearances, along with providing eight assists in that period.
As per WhoScored, although Pepe also struggled to adapt initially scoring once in his first ten appearances, he has not gone on to match the loft height of Henry, registering four goals and five assists in the Premier League. The Ivorian would require an emphatic final 12 games of the Premier League campaign to come close to matching the Frenchman, but there are some similarities to their start at Arsenal.
Though in Europe there is the possibility Pepe could match Henry, as in the 1999/00 campaign Arsenal reached the UEFA Cup final, only to lose to Galatasaray on penalties. The ex-Arsenal forward scored seven times in the knockout stages, after Arsenal dropped down to the competition from the Champions League group stage. Pepe currently has four combined goals and assists in the tournament and could go some way to emulating the striker if they can progress in the knockout rounds.