Ex-Arsenal forward, turned Sky Sports Pundit, Paul Merson, has had plenty to say in regards of his old club, none of it flattering. He took aim at Spanish coach Unai Emery for the lack of change in the side, referring to him as ‘Unai Wenger’ and also took a dig at new signing Nicolas Pepe.
“They go 2-0 down against Tottenham and suddenly the shackles come off and they look like the Harlem Globetrotters.
“But then against Watford they go 2-0 up and by the end of the game they’re hanging on for dear life. That can’t happen.
“It’s like the Arsene Wenger days all over again. It’s no different.”
But he saved his most damning criticism for Arsenal new boy Nicholas Pepe, who has had a difficult and indifferent start to the campaign. You can see glimpses of the talent, no doubt about that, but Merson feels not enough to justify the £72m price tag. Paul Merson said:
“Nicolas Pepe needs to pull his finger out too”
“He hasn’t looked anything like a £72m footballer so far.”
Merson was referring to his lack of goals and tally of only two assists in six appearances. Arsenal supporters were also trolled by Manchester United fans who pointed out that Daniel James has scored 3 goals and cost only £15m.
Elsewhere, another ex-Arsenal man, Martin Keown, remarked that 18-year-old Bukayo Saka, who shone against Eintracht Frankfurt, looked better than Pepe.
After the Frankfurt game on Thursday, Keown told BT Sport:
“They toil away, trying to get young players in and they’ve found one in Saka,”
“You think of the way Pepe is playing at the minute, they paid £72m for him and this kid looked better than him tonight.”
Yet anyone thinking that Arsenal have made an expensive error need only remind themselves that a certain Thierry Henry was a slow burner for the Gunners, with some fans questioning Wenger’s logic for buying the Frenchman for £11m in 1999.
Henry had been a winger for Juventus but had struggled to make his mark, that changed dramatically and by 2001/02 season, Henry cranked up a level by helping Arsenal to a Premier League and FA Cup double and eventually becoming Arsenal’s most prolific striker with 228 goals in all competitions.
Unai Emery has revealed his plans to help Pepe grow into his role at Arsenal when he said:
“He needs more adaptation,”
“He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us.”
“I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”
“We are working with him first for that adaptation after the training now, also individually we are watching individual videos with him, also to push him to achieve the details tactically.”
“We need him because he is playing well but also we need in our organisation to be strong with every player to improve a lot.”
Pepe will soon find his feet and when he does, someone will suffer. What he needs at the moment is patience and encouragement, not to be singled out for Arsenal’s failures which are due to a wishy washy midfield and vulnerable defence.