Ricardo Pepi at FC Augsburg: Beyond the marketing hypetrain – what the striker can give FC Augsburg and the Bundesliga

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With the signing of Ricardo Pepi, FC Augsburg has already succeeded in what is arguably the biggest transfer coup for a Bundesliga club of the winter. Comparisons with Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland are being attempted, even the club media is jumping on the “Pepi-Hypetrain”. And suddenly FC Augsburg jerseys cost more in the US. But what can Pepi give the FCA and the Bundesliga on the pitch? And what else?

While many football fans in Germany are still rubbing their eyes in surprise, the international FC Augsburg Twitter Account a video message from Fabrizio Romano, probably the best known and currently most informed journalist when it comes to transfer rumours.

Whenever the rumors he spreads become reality, and they are astonishingly frequent, he announces the transfers with the phrase, “Here we go”: the saying has become his trademark. Romano is followed by more than six million people on Twitter alone, about 24 times as many as FC Augsburg.

The Italian makes a show of the transfer business. A show in which the Augsburgers consciously participated this time by setting up a stage for him. The transfer expert announced on FC Augsburg’s English-language Twitter account that the “Pepi-Hypetrain” has arrived in Augsburg.

With Ricardo Pepi, one of the MLS’s greatest talents has moved not to FC Bayern, not to Borussia Dortmund, but to a Bundesliga relegation candidate – almost staged as if Kylian Mbappe had just gone to Real Madrid. In Germany, however, many fans frowned in surprise.

Ricardo Pepi: What can he do, what are his strengths?

But who is Ricardo Pepi anyway? And why is it causing such hype? The striker comes from the academy of FC Dallas, which brought players such as Weston McKennie, Chris Richards and Bryan Reynolds to Europe. He makes no secret of it for Pepi, Real Madrid is actually the big goal.

So it’s no wonder that top clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern or Liverpool are associated with him. Two aspects are surprising in this regard: first, FC Augsburg as the first European channel and second, the development of Pepi in 2021.

Perhaps this even explains why he would first want to get a foothold in Augsburg: just over a year ago, Pepi still seemed a long way from moving to Europe. But then it literally exploded and hit 13 times in 31 missions. Wait a second. 13 hits in 31 games? That doesn’t sound like a “prodigy,” as FC Augsburg called him in the announcement video.

Context is important here too. On the one hand, he comes in at a quota of one direct goalscorer every 128 minutes, and on the other hand, he played for Dallas, which was far from qualifying for the playoffs in the Western Conference, finishing only third from last place.

But above all, you should not be blinded by quotas. Pepi in his systems is a striker who takes an active part in the ball circulation and often leaves his position for it. The comparisons to Robert Lewandowski are high priced right now, but there are similarities in the way the two play football.

Pepi combines basic physical and technical skills and is therefore often a reliable point of reference in the attacking midfield. His smart gaits and his understanding of dangerous spaces make him difficult for opponent defenders to understand. Even against the ball, he does good pressing moves instead of taking breaks. In addition, he has a good degree on both left and right. Few strikers of his age combine so many skills at such a high level.

Ricardo Pepi: What can he give FC Augsburg in sporting terms?

It was not necessarily foreseeable that FC Augsburg would spend a lot of money this winter. However, it is not surprising that this money is invested in a striker. Only three clubs have scored fewer goals in the Bundesliga than the FCA. With 17 goals to their credit, Florian Niederlechner scored three in just 442 minutes of play, making him the top scorer of his team.

But Niederlechner also makes a small contradiction clear: is it the lack of quality of the individual players or is it too little for FC Augsburg under Markus Weinzierl to put the attackers on the podium? At least only Fürth has fewer diplomas in the competition than they do (10.6 per game). And also with the expected goals based on the quality of the chances, Augsburg is third from bottom (1.0 per game) in the Bundesliga.
Perhaps that’s why caution should be exercised when discussing whether Pepi could become the next Haaland.

So far, Weinzierl has relied on the area in the squad that is individually most occupied: the defense. A deep line of defense and the attempt to play to the top when winning the ball with few contacts – that’s where you can break your approach. The problem, however, is that Augsburg was too seldom able to make the connection between defensive and offensive.

Pepi can help, but Weinzierl has to adapt too

In the end, Niklas Dorsch was too often alone in midfield. Pepi is without a doubt a striker who is more generous than any other attacker in the squad. And that alone could solve some problems.

While strikers are often measured by goals, the 18-year-old’s added value could be better filling in the gaps for Dorsch. His smart freewheeling behavior and his ability to capture balls could be very valuable to Augsburg. This gives his teammates time to move up and thus complete the counterattacks more often.

Weinzierl will also have to adapt now. With Pepi, he has someone who can open spaces for the rest of the offensive with his counter-rotating movements. Augsburg’s game has so far been characterized by restraint. And that also broadens the way in counter situations, which Pepi would not exactly meet. His strengths lie in the combination game and in the last third, but not in running at high speed. So it alone will not bring about any change.


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