Cedric could be the answer for Arsenal to get the best out of Nicolas Pepe
- Credit: PA
Pepe had been criticised of late but his recent form has been a glimmer of his £70million price tag.
The 3-1 win over Leicester City could be a turning point in this inconsistent season.
Arsenal had not won at the Foxes since 2015 in the Premier League but the influence of Pepe and co meant the trip back down the M1 was a happy one.
There just seemed to be more energy and fight from the Ivorian winger. At times since his arrival, he has looked jaded, lacking confidence and interest.
The red card against Leeds United during the 0-0 draw earlier in the season was not ideal. His recent run of form must mean he is now at the top of Mikel Arteta’s team sheet. A fantastic turn around.
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The signing of Cedric Soares was never going to light the world up, but his influence at right-back is allowing Nico to work his X factor on that left-foot.
Formerly of Southampton, the Portuguese full back is a steady Premier League player.
Arteta could opt for the number 17 after he complemented Pepe tremendously in the East Midlands against Brendan Rodgers side.
Hector Bellerin is the longest serving player at the club after Mesut Ozil ended his disappointing departure from North London in January.
Bellerin has better ability than his competition at right-back, and he has worn the armband a few times, but his inverted runs take up space for Pepe to exploit.
Cedric darts around the outside. He will occupy the opposing left-back with the potential of distracting a midfield player.
The Arsenal number 19 recognised this and will use the overlapping run as a decoy, create space on that left foot and look to hurt the opposition.
Statistics from this season show that Bellerin will be paired with Pepe on the right flank on more occasions.
He has played 22 games in the league this season, compared to Cedric’s eight, most of them at left-back when Kieran Tierney was nursing an injury.
After one of the performances of the season at the weekend, the decision to play Cedric at right-back could be favoured heading into the business end of the season.
It is pivotal that Pepe continues to perform. Arsenal will improve from now to the end of the season if the relationship between Cedric and Pepe continues.