Pepe snaps Van Dijk dribble streak at 50-game mark as Arsenal forward beats Liverpool defender

Nicolas Pepe Arsenal Liverpool 240819Getty

Nicolas Pepe has snapped Virgil van Dijk’s dribble sequence at the 50-game mark, with the Arsenal forward getting the better of the Liverpool defender in a Premier League clash at Anfield.

The Netherlands international centre-half has established a reputation for being an immovable object.

Few opponents can claim to have got the better of him during his time with Liverpool.

Van Dijk has been a defensive rock for the Reds, with a healthy return offered on the £75 million ($92m) invested in his talent.

Arsenal splashed out a similar sum breaking their own transfer record over the summer, with Pepe acquired for £72m ($88m).

They have eased him into Premier League life, but Unai Emery handed out a first Premier League start for the Ivory Coast international on Saturday.

The intention was for him to provide support for frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with his pace and direct running.

Once on the ball, Pepe offered an early indication of what he is capable of by bursting beyond Van Dijk.

No player has achieved that feat since March 2018, when Mikel Merino managed it for Newcastle.

Van Dijk has taken in a half-century of Premier League appearances without allowing anyone to dribble past him.

That run has now come to an end.

The Dutchman had already seen his impressive record when it comes to containing rivals come to a close in non-Premier League competition.

He was beaten by Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus during a Community Shield contest at Wembley in August.

Two English top-flight outings have been taken in since then, against Norwich and former club Southampton.

Liverpool, who boasted the meanest defence in the Premier League last season, were unable to keep a clean sheet in either of those games.

They were also breached on two occasions before seeing off Chelsea on penalties during a dramatic UEFA Super Cup clash.

Questions have been asked of a defensive unit that was watertight in 2018-19, with Brazil international goalkeeper Alisson proving to be a big miss between the sticks.

Van Dijk has remained a talismanic presence, but even he has been shown to be mortal after finally seeing an opponent run the ball beyond him.

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