Rio Ferdinand and Robin van Persie have both explained to BT Sport that Arsenal’s club-record signing Nicolas Pepe can still improve in many areas, despite scoring in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United.
Pepe, 24, joined Arsenal in the summer for a whopping £72million but it is clear that the 18-time Ivory Coast international is still learning how to adapt to the Premier League – a much harder standard than France’s Ligue 1.
He has netted five times for Arsenal since his move, creating another four goals. On Wednesday, though, arguably came his best moment in an Arsenal shirt as he comfortably scored against Manchester United from eight years out in their 2-0 win.
It was Mikel Arteta’s first three points at the third attempt as Arsenal boss, with players like Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all playing as though they had been transformed. Ferdinand and van Persie still think Pepe can do better.
Ferdinand: “Massive signing, but he hasn’t produced. Today, he looked like a new player. That comes from confidence from a manager. He’s young, he’s got time. Arteta had influence on Sterling, Mahrez, and Pepe falls into the same category.”
Van Persie: “With Pepe, today he played well, but I do believe he can go up a level if he makes those runs in the final third. With crosses from the other side, he is still enjoying the moment, watching the game.”
TBR’s view – van Persie hits the nail on the head, more movement needed
It was clear against United that Pepe is guilty at times of daydreaming, and that makes it easy for a left-back to mark him. In reality, Pepe’s goal was given to him on a plate and though he did play well, it was not the level of a £72million player.
Pepe needs to learn to get into the box more frequently. A number of times, crosses from the other flank – notably the impressive Sead Kolasinac – came to the back post and Pepe was seen watching on. He needs to be attacking those.
Too many times the Ivorian was standing still. It is too easy to defend against.