Unai Emery says Nicolas Pepe is improving step-by-step, but he just needs to get on the scoreboard now.
Nicolas Pepe was a big talking point after Arsenal’s defeat to Sheffield United on Monday, as he missed the team’s best chance, sidefooting wide at the end of an impressive move.
For fans on social media, the miss proved the winger is a ‘£72m flop’, but many who actually watched the game would be encouraged with the player’s performance, just not his finishing on that occasion.
Excluding the miss, Pepe probably had Arsenal’s best two chances, curling narrowly wide from distance and seeing a free-kick saved.
The winger completed another five dribbles to put him second in the league for the most successful dribbles this season, and he also made a game-high five tackles, he’s just not getting the final ball right yet. Unai Emery says this is the next step.
“Pepe is improving but the next step for him is to score,” Emery said. “Usually he is going to score chances like that – but tonight he didn’t take his chance.
“Pepe is improving and I think Pepe’s way with us is little-by-little getting better. The next step is to score. Tonight, for example, the best chance is one he is usually going to score but tonight he didn’t take that with efficiency.
“He also had two shots that were very important. I think he is improving and taking confidence with us. But it is one process.”
We all know players coming to the Premier League don’t always explode into life immediately.
Heung-min Son scored four goals in his first league season with Spurs, Mohamed Salah couldn’t make the Chelsea starting lineup and Sadio Mane only had three goals by the turn of the year with Southampton.
All three players came to England on the back of double-figure scoring seasons, but they all struggled to find their stride at first, and now they’re three of the most threatening wingers in the division.
The encouraging thing is that the chances are still falling to Pepe. He hasn’t completely disappeared, he just hasn’t found his finishing touch. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that will change soon.