Arsenal’s Pépé Scored More Free Kick Goals In 12 Minutes Than Ronaldo Has Since He Joined Juventus

Nicolas Pépé banged in two free kick goals to rally Arsenal to a 3-2 win while surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick total in a substitute appearance.

Prior to Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus in 2018, the Old Lady had some of the best free-kick takers in the world in Miralem Pjanic, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala. But who is going to tell the biggest ego in the sport he can’t take a crack at goal from distance, especially when he’s shown he can, when he hits it right, strike a mean free kick? Who can forget his thunderbolt against Spain at the 2018 World Cup?

Except, since joining Juventus, Ronaldo has attempted 28 shots from free kicks. Of those, 19 hit the wall, two missed the target and seven were saved.

And yes, for those keeping score at home, that means he has yet to score on a free kick for Juventus.

Consider then for a moment the strike rate of Nicolas Pépé, Arsenal’s record signing from Lille whose only Gunners goal coming into Thursday was a penalty kick. On Thursday night in London, the 24-year-old Frenchman took two shots on free kicks — and scored them both.

Pépé netted two golazos in the closing minutes of a Europa League match to give the Gunners a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Guimaraes, breaking the hearts of the visitors who thought they had won it with two goals in the first half.

Pépé came into the match as a 75th-minute sub, his side trailing its Portuguese opponent 2-1 after goals from Marcus Edwards (a 20-year-old Tottenham youth product) and Bruno Duarte. Young Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli had briefly brought Arsenal level with a goal in the 32nd minute, but that only lasted four minutes. Gooners weren’t happy with how the match was playing out.

When he came on, Pépé made an immediate impact for the Gunners, demanding the ball all over the pitch, even dropping back into the back-right corner to dribble around some Guimaraes players at one point.

In the 80th minute, five minutes after Pépé came on, Lucas Torreira won a free kick in a dangerous spot on the right-hand side of the goal. 

From more than 25 yards out, Pépé curled in a wicked shot that left Guimaraes keeper Miguel Silva flat-footed.

But Pépé was only warming up. In the 85th minute, he sent in an inviting cross off a free kick that was struck well by the head of Rob Holding only for Silva to make a fine save to keep the score level.

In the 91st minute, Matteo Guendouzi was slightly knocked over following a rampaging run, setting up a free kick right in the middle of the goal about 24 yards out. 

Perhaps forgetting what Pépé had just done less than 12 minutes earlier, Silva set up only a four-man wall. Perhaps feeling a tad disrespected, Pépé did this.

Ballgame.

Pépé has struggled to get his goal scoring on track with Arsenal after scoring 23 last season at Lille. He missed a sitter in a 1-0 loss to Sheffield United on Monday.

But with two brilliant free kicks he surged far past Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick accuracy and into the hearts of Arsenal fans who really needed something to cheer about.

Maybe Juventus should tell someone other than Ronaldo to take free kicks from now on.

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