Arsene Wenger thinks Nicolas Pepe was a good signing for Arsenal, but he needs time to play as he did in France.
Since signing for Arsenal, Nicolas Pepe has scored once and assisted three times in 10 appearances (six starts), which isn’t a bad record at all for a new player in England. The concern is more that the winger doesn’t seem to be having a huge impact on matches just yet.
Responding to the criticisms aimed at Pepe, former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said he can see why the club brought him in, but he expects more from the 24-year-old in the future.
“I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him],” Wenger said (via Metro). “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.”
Pepe’s off-the-ball work is certainly the main area for improvement at this point. If I had to guess, the reason the winger was substituted for Gabriel Martinelli on Sunday was that he wasn’t pressing the Bournemouth defenders, whilst Martinelli made a match-high four tackles in his limited minutes on the pitch.
Additionally, he could be finding more positions in the box to score. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s fantastic movement and excellent current form, spaces should open up for Pepe, he just needs to start finding them.
On the other hand, Pepe has shown a lot to be encouraged by too. Only Dani Ceballos (14) has created more chances than the Ivorian (13) for Arsenal this season, and no one even comes close to his dribbling numbers.
If Pepe can start to use that dribbling and chance creation ability a bit more in the box, and add a few goals too, there won’t be anything to worry about.