After months of speculation, Leeds United‘s worst fears were realised as talisman Raphinha made his long-awaited move to La Liga giants Barcelona, joining the Camp Nou outfit on a reported £55m deal after two years in England.
That departure has brought with it the need to find a suitable replacement, with Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe believed to be one of those names who could well come through the door to try and fill the void left behind by the outgoing Brazilian.
Signed from Lille on a mammoth £72m deal in 2019, the Ivorian gem has failed to live up to expectations at the Emirates thus far, having struggled to establish himself as a regular fixture of Mikel Arteta’s side, notably making just five Premier League starts last term.
Despite the obvious disappointment regarding his move to north London – which has culminated in the Gunners reportedly being willing to cash in for as little as £25m this summer – the 27-year-old has no doubt shown glimpses of his talent in recent seasons, with there a sense that he had been deserving of greater game time of late.
The 2020/21 season proved particularly impressive for the France-born speedster as he chipped in with ten top-flight goals, while also providing ten goal contributions in just 13 games in that season’s Europa League run.
Perhaps one of his greatest traits is his devastating ability to cut onto his favoured left foot from the right flank before unleashing a shot, with that quality seemingly reminiscent of Dutch legend, Arjen Robben.
That claim is not unfounded, however, with former Lille boss Christophe Galtier even suggesting that the pair possess similar attacking traits, while reports a few years ago suggested that Bayern Munich were interested in Pepe as a like-for-like replacement for the departing veteran.
Now retired after a brief, injury-plagued stint back at Groningen, Robben had enjoyed a hugely successful career at the elite level, turning out for the likes of PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern and seemingly always delivering.
A winner of a plethora of major honours, the 38-year-old was a truly lethal force in his pomp, racking up 209 goals and 165 assists in 613 games in all competitions across his club career, while also scoring 37 times in 96 appearances at international level.
Much of his success came from that innate knack for cutting inside and unleashing an often composed, carefully placed finish, with the 5-foot-11 menace having honed his craft to such an extent that he was simply unstoppable at times, with defenders unable to prevent his genius despite knowing exactly what he intended to do.
Although it’s only been seen in flashes thus far during his time with Arsenal, the belief is that Pepe has the quality in him to produce Robben-like levels of performance, with it perhaps a risk worth taking for sporting director Victor Orta and manager Jesse Marsch to try and land the one-time Angers man.