This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger has warned Nicolas Pepe that he must expect to fight for his place in the side after a recent run of bad form.
What’s the word?
After his gargantuan £72m transfer from Lille in the summer, the Gunners’ record signing has not had the explosive start that many predicted.
The Ivorian, who has won 11 caps for his country, has only scored one goal in his first eight Premier League outings and it is surely only a matter of time until his hefty price tag starts to sit firmly on the 24-year-old’s shoulders.
Despite this, Arsenal have won their last five games out of six in all competitions and sit third in the Premier League, one point behind last season’s champions Manchester City.
With youngsters such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka making their mark in their respective attacking roles, Wenger believes that Pepe will come under pressure very quickly for his position in Unai Emery’s side.
He told Omnisport (via Yahoo Sports): “I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him].
“He’s not yet completely adapted and you have to give him some time. He looks a little bit to be playing not with the freedom he did in France at the moment.
“I see some characteristics of his game, especially off the ball, that don’t happen at the moment. On the other hand, I must say we have good young players who can play on the flanks, [and] that he will have a fight to keep his position.”
Arsenal’s biggest problem?
Give Pepe time
The Ivory Coast international was slammed by Roy Keane, who claimed he was “disappointed” in his performances, after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United. With money in football becoming uncontrollable, expectations are higher than ever before for players to hit the ground running.
Pepe admitted that he is low on confidence after an unsuccessful first few months at the club and has promised Arsenal supporters that it won’t be long until he starts firing on all cylinders again as he did for his former club.
The Gunners’ winger made the move from French side Angers to Lille in 2017 and spent two seasons at the Hauts-de-France based outfit. After scoring 13 goals in 36 league games in his first season at Lille, he went on to better it by getting another 22 goals and 11 assists during the 2018/19 campaign.
Players need time to gel into a team and Pepe is no exception. He has illustrated during his two seasons at Lille that he can play at a top-class level.
With new surroundings in a new country to get used to, Pepe just needs to settle down before he can be expected to perform.