Perhaps it is time we took stock of our mercurial Ivorian.
His performance against Molde pretty much summed up his time at Arsenal.
For most of the game (certainly until Bukayo Saka came on) he was, frankly, pretty poor.
He was unable to impose himself against a team who are hardly numbered among the greats of world football (no disrespect to Molde, who deserve credit for the way they played us).
He seemed to trip over the ball at times, at others he was muscled off it. When he tried to dribble he lost possession and he offered no real goal threat.
Then he ended the game with an assist and (another) peach of a goal.
The man is a mystery.
It would be easy to be critical of him for the majority of his play against the Norwegians, just as it was against Dundalk a week earlier. But in both games he ended up on the score sheet.
So what’s the problem?
Is it that his £72m price tag weighs too heavily? Is it that the way we set up (and, more importantly, the way teams set up against us) does not suit his game? Is it just down to his quality?
I think we can discount the last one. He has shown on enough occasions that when given an opportunity he can do the right things and do them very well. If you cast your mind back to our FA Cup Final win, his control and pass for Aubameyang’s winner were top, top class.
It’s consistency that’s the problem.
There was a discussion about him on the Arseblog podcast yesterday in which it was suggested that we should be hoping he becomes a new Ljungberg or Pires, capable of delivering 20 goals a year.
No doubt we would all love that, but it may be a stretch for Pepe. Over his club career he has scored 50 goals in 180 games – or a goal about every three-and-a-half games. If he played all the games in a Premier League season that means we could expect him to find the net 10 or 11 times. Not bad, but not likely to make the difference in us achieving something special.
The missing part of this puzzle is his potential. What is he capable of if coached to be the best he can be? It must be on Mikel Arteta’s mind. El Patron saw Raheem Sterling arrive at Manchester City as a gifted but raw and frustrating striker and watched as Pep Guardiola turned him into a world class player.
Can he do it with Pepe? What do you think?
My feeling is that it ultimately won’t work out for Nico at Arsenal. I dearly hope that I’m wrong, but my instincts make me doubt that he will suddenly explode as a goalscoring, assist-making talent and I would be unsurprised if we start the 2021-2022 season without him.