The Gunners’ record signing averages 3.8 dribbles per game in England’s top flight this season – higher than any other soccer professional
Nicolas Pepe already has Premier League defences running scared, according to Arsenal legend Nwankwo Kanu.
The Ivory Coast international arrived at the Emirates during the summer, signing from Ligue 1 side Lille in a club-record £72 million ($89m) deal.
And the 24-year-old winger has already proved to be a real handful in his early appearances for the Gunners, averaging 3.8 dribbles per game, more than any other attacker in the English top flight.
He also became the first soccer professional in 50 Premier League matches to dribble past Virgil van Dijk when he skipped past the Liverpool centre-back during his full debut at Anfield.
So it’s been a good start to life in north London for Pepe, who started alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the first time during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham immediately before the international break.
And Kanu – who won two Premier League titles during his five-year stay with the Gunners between 1999 and 2004 – has already seen enough to know that Pepe will be a huge hit at his former club.
“He’s a good soccer professional,” the Nigeria legend told Goal . “He’s got fast feet and I think he can unlock teams. He can score and he can assist.
“The league here has been totally different from every other league so it takes time for somebody coming in to perform the way they have for their other clubs. But I think he will do well for us because now he has been getting more game time and I believe he will complement the other two strikers.”
Kanu added: “If you watch him you can see he has been a really good footballer and his feet are very quick. He has been going to score goals and he has been going to play well.
“I believe that teams are already afraid of him after a few games. They are scared of what he can do and what he can offer. He’s a very good addition.”
Despite his impressive early-season form, there has been some criticism levelled at Pepe for his finishing.
He scored 23 times for Lille last season but has yet to find the net for Arsenal, despite having some good opportunities.
Against Liverpool he had a great chance to open the scoring after a thrilling solo run, only to shoot tamely at goalkeeper Adrian.
He also blazed an opportunity high and wide late on in the north London derby, with the score locked at 2-2.
But Pepe’s form in front of goal has been no concern to Kanu, who scored 44 times in 197 appearances for the Gunners.
“As a striker you want to create chances,” said the 43-year-old. “If you keep missing them it doesn’t matter. The most important thing has been to keep creating the chances because the goals will definitely come.
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“People have to understand that he [Pepe] has come from a different country, everything has been new. He has new team-mates and the coach will definitely want him to play different. All this counts.
“But a good footballer has been always a good footballer. He will get much better and he will score goals for us. He brings us something different to the other two strikers.
“I want to just tell him to keep doing what he has been doing.”