This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Arsenal are interested in making a move for Jose Mourinho if they sack Unai Emery under the pressure of his current struggles, as reported by The Times.
This comes with the Gunners currently undergoing a three-game run without a win, as per Transfermarkt, while they also sit six points outside of the top four at this stage.
However, there are some concerns about the style of play the Portuguese tactician may deploy in north London due to his defensive reputation.
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The way his football is conveyed can be summarised by Xavi’s comments in Corriere dello Sport, via AS: “Mourinho is a very defensive coach. Playing against his Inter wasn’t easy. That’s his style and he put it into practice with Chelsea and Real Madrid. He cares about all the details, he closes the gaps and he doesn’t give you space.”
This method of playing defensive football, with the team often sitting deep, can be seen to suffocate the creativity of Mourinho’s attackers, but it could actually bring out the best in Nicolas Pepe.
The Ivory Coast international has not had the best start to life at the Emirates, getting 1 goal and 2 assists in his first 8 Premier League starts and 3 substitute appearances, as per WhoScored.
However, this can partly be down to him adapting to a new style of play, as well as a different country and league.
Mourinho’s tactics of sitting back and absorbing pressure could see Pepe play a closer role to the one he fulfilled at Lille, which Total Football Analysis summarised: “Lille’s counter-attacking style needs Pépé’s pace and he’s very instrumental against sides that press up-field. Against such sides, Pépé moves centrally and tries to exploit the gap between the centre-backs.”
This approach saw him amass 22 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.
He is already averaging 3.4 dribbles and 1.7 key passes a game this term, so there are signs he can make an impact for the Gunners if his strengths are played to.
While Mourinho’s tactics may not be the most exciting for fans, they could certainly utilise Pepe’s strengths, which should help bring the best out of the club-record signing.