A jack of all trades, master of none is a term regularly used to describe Simone Pepe. A versatile player, capable of covering most positions, his clumsy play and lack of technical expertise forced many to question the club’s ambitions for the season when he arrived in Turin. However, dubbed the poor man’s Angelo Di Livio by the Bianconeri fans, his commitment to the jersey, coupled with his willingness to sacrifice, has endeared him to many, as has his steady improvement and charming demeanour.
Purchased for his versatility, it has to be said that when played as a winger, Pepe has not been brilliant this season, especially when compared to the raw talent of Milos Krasic on the right. Whilst his dynamic display proved to be a bright spark in an otherwise woeful display from Juventus in the first half against Genoa, his awkward, inaccurate passing ensured he failed to make the difference against a side who so effectively double-marked players out of the game. However what people often forget is that when playing on the left flank, Pepe is forced to play with his weaker foot – not ideal for a player lacking in technical ability.
Nonetheless, the manner in which he has adapted his play to suit different positions, despite his limitations, makes him a crucial asset for any club. Against Roma earlier in the season, Krasic was unavailable and Pepe was fielded in his position on the right, with Frederik Sørensen behind him. 49% of the attack came from that right hand side as Pepe easily overcame the threat of John Arne Riise to create endless opportunities using his stronger right foot. His pinpoint crossing coupled with his willingness to run incessantly, wreaked havoc for Roma and allowed him a lot of space on the right from which he initiated several dangerous attacks. However, being a team player, the most admirable aspect of his game that night was his ability to make Sørensen look good in defence as he allowed the player to push up and follow through on attacks whilst Pepe slipped in at the back to cover his position. His willingness to combine with the full-back allowed the right-hand side to be defensively capable in comparison to the match against Fiorentina two weeks later in which Krasic’s defensive ineptitude left Marco Motta frequently stranded on the right.
Defensively comfortable, it was his forays in the attack that worried many. That is of course, until Luigi Del Neri fielded the player as a second striker behind Amauri in the away match against Sampdoria. A vibrant performance from a man that clearly enjoyed the freedom of his new role, Juventus benefitted greatly from Pepe’s ability to sustain the vertical line of Juve’s attack. Often seen picking up the ball from the back at great speed to then launch it forward for the likes of Krasic, Juventus attacked quickly and intelligently thanks to their vertical play. Despite playing up top, Pepe’s willingness to cover so much space meant that he was always going back to recoup possession from deep and then make timely passes to initiate a Juve attack. All that was missing in that match was an on-form Krasic to turn Pepe’s hard work into dangerous attacking movements. Using his initiative to go wide and stretch the opposition, and his understanding of the full-back role to let Marco Motta effectively overlap him, demonstrated his ability to contribute to the overall team unit and fulfil any role required of him.
A player who continues to improve, he may never awe the crowd with a stunning performance but he will almost always produce a decent enough display in any position offered to him.