Fri. Jun 25th, 2021

A superb 30-minute cameo off the bench this afternoon saw Nicolas Pepe prove the catalyst in Arsenal’s win over Sheffield United, potentially reigniting his own Gunners career in the process.

Arsenal get the job done… Just

Mikel Arteta’s men welcomed the Blades to the Emirates a short time ago, for their latest Premier League outing.

The hosts headed into proceedings in search of a bounce-back performance, having fallen to their first league defeat of the campaign at Anfield on Monday night.

They had, though, since booked their spot in the League Cup’s quarter-finals, at Liverpool’s expense.

And, when all was said and done in north London this afternoon, Arsenal got their Premier League form back on track, too.

A tense affair eventually saw the two sides separated by just a solitary goal following the full-time whistle.

On the back of a rather drab first-half, Bukayo Saka opened the game’s scoring just past the hour-mark.

A wonderfully crafted move between the likes of Willian, Nicolas Pepe and Mohamed Elneny eventually saw the ball slotted through to the lively Hector Bellerin in the away side’s box.

And the Spaniard’s perfectly-weighted chip to the back post was met by the arriving Bukayo Saka, who thumped a header home beyond the helpless Aaron Ramsdale:

Then, before Sheffield United had time to truly settle back into things, it was 2-0.

Full credit went to Nicolas Pepe on this occasion, as the Ivorian’s scintillating burst down the right was followed by a pinpoint left-footed effort into the bottom-left of the visitors’ goal:

Sheffield United, to their credit, continued to battle hard, and were rewarded for their efforts 7 minutes from time, courtesy of an equaliser.

After picking the ball up on the edge of the box, David McGoldrick went on to bend a fine left-footed strike beyond the clutches of the flying Bernd Leno.

In the end, though, the Irish international’s strike proved little more than a consolation, as Arsenal climbed above London rivals Chelsea back into the Premier League’s top-4.

Pepe the difference maker

The Gunners, whilst having secured a positive result this afternoon, were, in truth, far from their best versus Sheffield United.

Throughout the opening 45 minutes in particular, Arteta’s men looked completely devoid of a creative spark, with the likes of Willian and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having struggled to impact proceedings in a decisive manner.

All of this changed, however, upon the introduction of one player: Nicolas Pepe.

Arsenal’s record signing has been subjected to persistent criticism, often fully warranted, since his arrival last summer.

However, today, the Ivorian reminded fans of the Gunners and more of exactly why he was in such high demand whilst plying his trade with Lille.

Pepe completely changed the flow of Arsenal’s attack after being introduced off the bench shortly before the hour-mark this afternoon.

His incisive, but above all intentful bursts towards the away side’s box proved exactly what was missing from the hosts’ performance, with Pepe’s immediate impact highlighted perfectly by the fact that both of Arsenal’s goals came within 6 minutes of him stepping foot on the pitch.

Yes, it was only one game, and yes, he still has a whole lot to do to justify the fee splashed out on his signature… But today, when Mikel Arteta and his teammates needed him most, Pepe stepped up.

The 25-year-old should now surely be in line for a first league start of the season when Arsenal make the trip to the Etihad to take on Manchester City following the international break.

Arsenal blow: Lyon announce Houssem Aouar stay

Alisson adds to Liverpool woes ahead of Aston Villa clash