Arteta mapping out route to Arsenal greatness for Pepe
Mikel Arteta says it is far too early to write Nicolas Pepe off as a flop and believes his talent will come to the fore in the near future.
The Gunners splashed out a club-record £72million to sign Pepe from Lille last summer in what was seen as a major transfer coup by the club given Liverpool and Chelsea also reportedly wanted him.
The Ivory Coast international arrived with a big reputation, having lit up the French top flight last season with 22 goals and 11 assists, but the Emirates Stadium faithful have so far only been given a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
In 27 appearances for Arsenal, the 24-year-old has scored five goals and registered four assists.
It hasn’t been an easy situation for Pepe to step into, though, with the club changing head coach in December when Unai Emery was replaced by Arteta.
Since Arteta returned to north London, Pepe has been handed more opportunities, starting six matches on the bounce before being dropped to the bench for the 0-0 draw at Burnley in Arsenal’s last game ahead of the winter break.
Arteta has developed a reputation as a coach for getting the best out of young players and says he’s working with Pepe closely to help him adapt to life in England.
The former Manchester City coach says the Ivorian is working hard on the training ground and hopes in time he can shed the burden of playing under such a massive price tag and become a key player for Arsenal.
“It’s not easy to adapt to this league, but he’s putting in the effort and he’s willing to do it – and it will come out,” said Arteta.
“The price that we paid for him puts him in a difficult position straight away because he’s going to be compared to players of that calibre.”
Arteta went on to say that he is working on putting the “right structure” in place behind Pepe to help him and says he needs to work on his understanding of the game.
Pepe could get another chance to impress on Sunday when Arsenal return to action after the mid-season break against Newcastle.
Chris Rivers is an experienced reporter who closely follows both Arsenal and Wales Rugby Union team. As well as in-depth football and rugby knowledge, Chris is an avid American Football, Formula One and boxing fan.