Willian and Nicolas Pepe Must Learn From Their Youthfully Inexperienced, Yet Superior Counterparts
By Daniel Finton (Deputy Editor)
After Arsenal thrashed West Bromwich Albion by a margain of 4-0, the praise was rightfully given to the impressive youngsters on display once again. While Gabriel Martinelli did not take any part in the frigid cake walk, both Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka were pivotal in the Gunners' charge flying forward from the first whistle.
The pair of Englishmen and Martinelli have brought a refreshing sense of urgency and complete lack of complacency to the previously dull attack, since finally being awarded game time by Mikel Arteta. This surely has both Nicolas Pepe and Willian concerned about their game time, it certainly should at least. It is time for the Ivorian and Brazilian to start taking notes from their younger, yet superior counterparts--if they do not, a reintroduction to the starting eleven may not ever occur.
The record signing and the former Chelsea man have just never hit the heights that they are capable of. Gooners are yet to see the Lille Pepe or the Chelsea Willian and frankly both have been catastrophic failures thus far. It has got to the point where I will let out a genuine sigh of frustration when I see either of the two playing from the start--especially when it is Willian over Saka or Martinelli. Neither deserve to play at all. The dynamic trio of the aforementioned pair and Smith-Rowe all bring far more to the table than either of the senior, wide players.
There is a reason for the underwhelming-ness from the "old heads" and it is a phrase used in the introduction of this piece--complacency. Both Willian and Pepe play like they do not have anything to prove at times. The former constantly passes the ball as if he is the second coming of Sead Kolasinac with no intention of moving progressively with intention, and the latter seems to be more interested in step overs and feints than actually making anything happen. Contrarily, the ankle biters play as if they're constantly trying to impress Arteta. Clearly it is working and the brave, gut busting is paying off.
Smith-Rowe, Saka and Martinelli are direct and play with a no-nonsense kind of attitude that their experienced inferiors just seem completely incapable of.
Pepe and Willian have to fix up quickly or any hope of returning to the fold from the start, or at all for that matter will be nothing but a hopeful and lofty aspiration. As of now the abundantly mentioned treble of golden boys are far ahead of them in the pecking order, but there could be even more pressure to come this Saturday. With an FA Cup tie to Newcastle on the horizon, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if fringe players such as Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were given a crack at the whip. If that pair goes on and performs incredibly well against the Magpies, Pepe and Willian could be behind five youngsters in the pecking order instead of the three they're already behind now.
Realistically there is only two or three positions at the maximum up for grabs up front, seeing as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will most likely retain his spot on the left as he is the captain. Whether or not that is justified is certainly debatable.
Additionally, Alexandre Lacazette has been utterly immense as of late and deserves to continue playing in the industrious centre-forward role. The right wing is where Willian and Pepe both prefer playing but Saka is completely immovable at the moment. Number 10 could be the one position up for grabs but Smith Rowe seems to be establishing himself as a mainstay more and more every match. It's a tall task and it will be interesting to see if Willian and Pepe want it enough.
Of course, Willian and Pepe could both play and maybe even impress in the 3rd round tie to Newcastle but the mountain that needs climbing is a hell of a lot more colossal than an early round in the FA Cup. And it's not a matter of "it would be great if they impress," like how it is for Nelson and Willock, it's a case of non-negotiably having to. I could be wrong but I think the pair have genuinely irked Arteta greatly and there is a reason that neither played against West Brom.
In closing, I'm an Arsenal fan so I want every player we ever sign to succeed, but Pepe and Willian aren't doing themselves any favours. The internationals must pull their thumbs out and learn from the young lads who should really be learning from them. If they fail in doing so their careers at this club will be over sooner than later. Your move, gentlemen. The youngsters have certainly made theirs.