For a while in the earlier part of the transfer season, it seemed as though Arsenal’s transfer dealings – in the market for a defender, midfielder and winger – were all noise and no substance.
Last term, the Gunners yet again had missed out on the top four and ended the season without a trophy, losing the Europa League final scandalously to Chelsea.
It seemed their lackadaisical attempts in the transfer market would only be good enough to earn them another lame top six finish.
Then in the space of seven working days, the Gunners had completed the signing of Ceballos, Saliba and Nicolas Pepe.
The Ivorian forward, in particular, was acquired from Lille for a club record fee.
— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) August 1, 2019
Unai Emery may still need a couple of arrivals and departures to get the right balance in the defence but the Spaniard is obviously well-stocked in the middle of the park and in the attacking third.
With the arrival of the 80 million euros man who misses out and who gains big as the Gunners challenge on four fronts?
How will Emery set out to get the best out of his fearsome forwards?
THIS is why Arsenal are spending €80m on Nicolas Pepe 😎
Time to get excited, Gunners. pic.twitter.com/38aQD482aM
— Goal (@goal) July 27, 2019
The former Sevilla manager stuck with a 3-4-3 formation – sometimes with its 3-5-2 variant – for the most part of last season with varying degrees of success.
While that setup gave Emery’s men the freedom to score loads of goals, it invariably left his team exposed at the back.
In effect, Arsenal not only had one of the most free scoring attack line in the entire league, the North Londoners also had one of the worst defensive records in the top six.
To progress this term, the Emirates landlords must find the right balance between the attack and the defence.
On the evidence of how he approached the preseason games, the Spanish manager may have trashed the 3-4-3 for the 4-2-3-1 and its conservative variant, the 4-3-3.
To be effective, the 4-2-3-1 requires pacey wingers who can, with equal dexterity, feed the lone striker with scoring chances and also run through on goal to finish of chances.
Pepe fits that bill to a tee. Better than anyone Arsenal can boast of right now, bar Aubameyang.
Most expensive African players in the Premier League:
🇨🇮 Nicolas Pepe (£72m)
🇩🇿 Riyad Mahrez (£60m)
🇬🇦 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£56.1m)
🇬🇳 Naby Keita (£52.75m)
🇪🇬 Mohamed Salah (£36.9m)
Nicolas Pepe takes top spot. 🤑 pic.twitter.com/Cc5zaY6WBM
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 1, 2019
With the Ivorian taking up the spot on the right side of attack and Aubameyang causing havoc on the opposite flank, Ozil will be the perfect playmaker to slot in just behind Lacazette upfront.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and new Arsenal arrival Nicolas Pépé scored 73 goals combined last season.
This is going to be fun 🍿 pic.twitter.com/OawBdXj3hA
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 1, 2019
As he showed in the first half of the game against Barcelona, the German midfielder still retains an arsenal of cunning, through passes in his armoury to unlock opposing defences and arm his pacey attackers.
The duo of Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will provide options on the bench for any of the positions behind the main striker.
A clutch of enterprising youngsters such as Nketiah, Willock, Saka and Nelson have shown, over the course of the summer friendlies, that they can be trusted to do a decent job when called upon.
The arrival of Pepe has turned Arsenal’s forward line, if synergy can be achieved, to the best in England. That team will create chances and score quite a few goals.
And should Emery resolve their perennial defensive woes, then making the top four no longer appears like a target too high to attain.