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Aston Villa’s Neil Taylor could have a torrid time vs Nicolas Pepe

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

The games just don’t get any easier when you’re in the Premier League as struggling Aston Villa are about to find out.

Dean Smith’s men have found life difficult in the top-flight after gaining promotion back in May.

They have won just one of their five matches, leaving them one place outside the relegation zone on goal difference.

Last Monday night they looked lacklustre against a ten-man West Ham side, recording five shots on target, so they will be hoping to make amends this weekend.

Though, a trip to north London to face Arsenal may throw up similar results.

The Gunners’ defence is fragile, having faced more shots at their goal than any other side in Europe with 96, but the key battle does not involve their defence but rather one of their dangermen.

On the Chalkboard

Club-record signing Nicolas Pepe cost Arsenal £72m, which is half the sum Villa boss Dean Smith spent on 12 players this summer.

He’s yet to get off the mark in three Premier League starts, but he’s shown just how dangerous he can be.

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Last season, the 6-foot winger netted a monumental 22 goals for Lille while also providing 11 assists which steered the club into the Champions League.

Pepe provided his first assist in a Gunners shirt in the north London Derby against Tottenham and so far this season has averaged 2.6 shots per game and 3.8 dribbles each match, per WhoScored.

This would suggest that Neil Taylor is in for a torrid time at left-back.

Although the experienced 30-year-old only allows an average of 0.4 dribbles past him per game, he’s faced no one of Pepe’s calibre.

The Welshman will really have to be on his game to combat such a threat – 2 clearances, 1.8 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game suggest he’s doing a decent enough job at left-back.

One thing on his side is the fact that the winger is regularly dispossessed, averaging 1.8 per game – before making his debut there were doubts over whether he could cope with the Premier League’s physicality.

The Ivory Coast international records 2.2 unsuccessful touches per match too so there’s further hope that Villa can get the better of him.

Saying that, the pure technical dribbling ability of the pacey forward could leave Taylor on the ropes. The Welshman must be at the top of his game to avoid a torrid afternoon.

Article title: Aston Villa’s Neil Taylor could have a torrid time vs Nicolas Pepe

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