Ex-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has suggested that Nicolas Pepe has to improve his work 'off the ball' if he wants to improve on his slow start in north London, while also suggesting that the Ivorian 'needs time' to adapt.
Pepe joined the Gunners for a club-record £72m fee from Lille after his 35 goal contributions for the French side last season. However, he's started life slow at the Emirates, netting just once - a penalty and registering just two assists in the Premier League thus far.
The winger started life brightly, putting in decent, but not productive displays against Liverpool and Spurs in back-to-back games. He famously also became the first player to dribble past PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk in over a year.
However, Pepe's more recent struggles in the final third have left Arsenal fans unsatisfied with his output and a rather dismal display at Old Trafford against Manchester United summed up a tepid start in England.
Speaking to Omnisport, as quoted by Goal, Wenger has said that Pepe has shown flashes of what he's capable of, but admits that the performances of Arsenal's youngsters mean that the Ivorian has a fight on his hands to nail down a spot in Unai Emery's starting XI.
"I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him],” Wenger said. “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 doesn’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 to fight to keep his position."
Pepe bagged his first Premier League assist of the season as he set up David Luiz from a corner as Arsenal beat Bournemouth 1-0 and moved up to third in the table on Sunday.
After missing the last international break due to injury, Pepe is expected to join up with his Ivory Coast teammates for their fixtures against DR Congo and Niger.