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Better than Pepe: Arsenal experience bitter-sweet feeling over prolific attacker – opinion

On Tuesday night, Serge Gnabry slalomed his way through the Tottenham Hotspur defence and scored four goals as Bayern Munich won 7-2 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That scoreline bears repeating: 7-2.

Indeed, it doesn’t tell the story of the match. Spurs actually led through Heung-min Son and could have scored three in the first half an hour, but Joshua Kimmich equalised and then Robert Lewandowski scored a sensational goal on the turn just before half-time.

Spurs’ heads dropped and Gnabry, so devastating, so efficient, scored twice in two minutes and they were 4-1 down. Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot and then the embarrassment came, the humiliation, the downright disgraceful final 10 minutes.

Gnabry scored in the 83rd minute, Lewandowski in the 87th and then the former Arsenal man struck again on 88.

By the time the final goal hit the back of the net, the stadium was nearly empty, save for the gloating horde of Bayern fans. Who could blame them?

At the same time, a number of Arsenal fans were taking to Twitter to express their joy at Gnabry’s performance. Of course, the man himself tweeted afterwards that “north London is Red”.

The supporters, though, ought to think twice as they were handed a glimpse of what they could have won.

Gnabry left Arsenal to join Werder Bremen in 2016 and swiftly earned his move to Bayern, where he has already won the Bundesliga.

He has 18 goals and 13 assists in 50 appearances for the club and last night was his coming out party, his explosion on the European scene and, while Gunners fans revelled in the performance at their rivals’ expense, they ought to look at their own squad list.

They currently have Nicolas Pepe, signed for £72m from Lille in the summer, and it is hard to know whether or not he’s actually any good.

He’s scored once, from the penalty spot, and has two assists in all competitions but there is a suspicion that he really is just very fast and doesn’t offer a lot else.

Indeed, one has to say that Gnabry is already streets ahead of Pepe in his development in the attacking third and here’s the kicker: they’re both 24.

They both have five league starts so that’s where we’ll examine their statistics.

While Pepe has one goal and one assist, Gnabry has one goal and two assists. Chalk that one up for the former Gunners ace.

Pepe averages 2.9 shots per game, per WhoScored, while Gnabry has three. The latter has 1.8 key passes to the former’s 1.6, too, but his dribbling is nowhere near that of Pepe’s. The Ivorian has 3.3 per game; Gnabry has 1.6. But when the latter’s output is better, why does it matter?

Pepe also has a worse pass completion rate, while defensively, Gnabry has a higher tackle rate too.

Throughout their careers, Pepe has, of course, been excellent previously. In Ligue 1, he scored 35 goals across two seasons, while Gnabry has 31 in the Bundesliga across three full campaigns. One wonders if perhaps the Gunners star had found his level in France; he also has more assists across his campaigns with the club than Gnabry does in Germany.

This season, though, the roles are reversed, and one also has to consider international form. Whereas Gnabry has nine goals in 10 caps for Germany, Pepe has four in 11 for the Ivory Coast.

The stats, then, merely confirm what your eyes will have told you by watching the Bayern star rip Spurs to shreds.

He’s the better player, at least currently. And he certainly has better finishing boots than Pepe.

Of course, he is playing in a Bayern team blessed with the sparkling talents of Robert Lewandowski, Thiago Alcantara and Thomas Muller but, even still, he is standing out whereas Pepe is mired in uncertainty.

Arsenal fans naturally felt inclined to poke fun at their local rivals on Wednesday evening, but it was a bitter-sweet evening for a group of supporters who must have been left pondering what could have been.

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