Nicolas Pepe should be given time to adapt to playing for Arsenal, according to former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
After failing to land Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace this summer with two bids reportedly rejected for the Ivorian, the club moved on and signed Pepe from Lille for £72 million. Since the start of the season, the 24-year-old has played in every competitive game apart from the 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forrest in the Carabao Cup. His total at the moment stands at one goal and three assists from 10 games, eight in the Premier League (six starts), and two in the Europa League.
However, there are certain elements of the game which are rarely shown by stats when it comes to attacking players, and that mostly relates to work-rate off the ball. Wenger, who spent 22 years in charge of the team and won the Premier League three times, has observed that Pepe is lacking in that particular department.
However, the 69-year-old Frenchman believes it’s all down to the adaptation period, and that the winger should be given time to fully fit into the ideas of Unai Emery. But the former Arsenal boss also warns Pepe that other, younger players in the wide attacking roles are coming through the ranks and progressing quickly, and if he takes too much time to adapt, he may face a tough fight for a spot in the starting XI against the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka whose rapid progress is quite evident. That goes particularly for Saka, who, despite having only nine games under his belt in his professional career so far, hasn’t looked out of his depth at all against Premier League opposition this season.
Of course, quite apart from the talented youngsters, Alexandre Lacazette is due to return from injury at the end of this month too.