Some readers won’t like the suggestion, but too many fans are judging Nicolas Pepe, mainly because of the £75m price tag that accompanied him. It’s almost inevitable that the fans’ expectations were going to be unrealistically high, but it’s hard to dispute that Pepe has found it difficult to settle since his arrival.
Fans should perhaps note in their discussions that Nicolas Pepe lacks consistency, not talent! Now, it appears that Mikel Arteta is beginning to invest more time in the Frenchman, in the same way, he did with a certain Raheem Sterling at Manchester City and we all know how that turned out.
Arteta is credited with assisting several young players and although Pepe isn’t in that bracket, he’s 25, he’s still developing and needs guidance. Some players need the truth, a stern word, an arm around the shoulder, or a kick up the backside, Arteta is capable of delivering all of the aforementioned if needed, but the truth is that Pepe’s problem appears to be an issue of confidence.
A new club, new country, new coach, massive expectations, and severe levels of criticism are enough to hamper anyone’s progress, but Pepe is in safe hands. Every player at Arsenal has benefited from Arteta’s brand of man-management, apart from Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi but that’s their choice and the reason they’re at home watching Tipping Point.
Ask Saka or Xhaka, Mustafi, or Luiz and they’ll all be enthused by the skills and approach that the Spaniard has introduced. Pepe is his current project and word has it that Arteta is trying different tactics to get the best out of the Frenchman.
It was evident that the wheels were in motion during the Carabao Cup game against Leicester as Arteta went on a psychological crusade. The Spaniard could be heard constantly encouraging his striker, urging him forward, and praising him for his efforts. Arteta could be seen clapping, shouting, and coaching the player or calling his name “Nico, Nico”. He maintains faith in the player and recently said:
“I think he has come a long way, Nico.”
“Obviously we know what the club paid for him when he joined and that was obviously an extra pressure.”
“He is a really good character to have around and I’m really positive we are going to have him for many years.”
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Pepe has scored just eight times in 42 appearances but there’s more in the tank and Arteta knows it. Fans were certainly expecting more from Nicolas Pepe, kind of a similar return to his time at Lille which yielded 22 goals and 11 assists. The fact that he didn’t replicate those figures after such a massive investment seemed to go some way earning him the label of a flop with some voicing their preference for Wilfred Zaha, who incidentally would have cost £80m.
Myself, I’d persevere with Pepe because I know he can become a superstar under the leadership of Arteta. Maybe, he’ll catch fire this season or the next, but those currently writing him off may want to reserve judgement until Arteta has finished doing his job.