Arsene Wenger has told Omnisport, as quoted by Yahoo Sport, that Arsenal summer signing Nicolas Pepe is not playing with the freedom that he did at Lille following his £72million club-record move from the Ligue 1 side.
Arsenal decided to splash out the enormous fee on the Ivory Coast international after the 24-year-old scored a huge 23 goals last season, as well as laying on 12 assists during his 41 league and cup outings.
But since he moved to The Emirates, Pepe has scored just one goal for Arsenal in 10 games – a penalty against Aston Villa – and laid on three assists. In his biggest chance to shine, Pepe flopped against Manchester United and was substituted.
Arsenal legend Wenger believes that Pepe needs time to rediscover his form from France and that it was the right decision to sign him, but also suggested the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli could replace him in the starting XI.
“I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him],” Wenger said. “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.”
TBR’s view – Pepe must start firing, with Martinelli in spectacular form
The £6million signing from Brazilian side Ituano is in stunning form. In his two starts against Nottingham Forest and Standard Liege, Martinelli has scored four goals – two in each – as well as providing an assist.
Yes, the 18-year-old has been played up front, but he is also as effective playing off the flank. Similarly, Saka is showing plenty of quality and outshone Pepe against United. Pepe needs to get going as soon as possible, before Unai Emery loses patience.