Pepe: Lack of pre-season has taken a toll

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Nicolas Pepe says his stunted pre-season has taken a toll on his start to life at Arsenal but after last night’s match-winning brace against Vitoria, he’s confident that he’s getting back to his best.

The Gunners completed the club record £72 million signing of the Ivorian on 1 August, three weeks after his country were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations, and he was quickly tasked with making an impact off the bench in our opening game of the season at Newcastle.

Facing the cameras after his two stunning free-kicks downed Portuguese side Vitoria 3-2 at the Emirates, Pepe admitted that the way his summer panned out has left him playing catch-up on the physical front.

“I am not at my best physically because I didn’t have a proper pre-season like the others,” he told Arsenal.com. 

“I was at the African Nations Cup. I started little by little and the manager knew about it. I am trying to work hard to be stronger physically to perform well.”

Pepe also stressed that he was pleased that Unai Emery has been patient with him while he adapts to his new surroundings and the style of play in England.

“The manager trusts me,” he went on, “even if I hadn’t been decisive for a while, I always had the manager’s trust. It is always important to have the manager’s faith.

“Of course (I knew it would be hard moving to England). It is a league totally different to Ligue 1, with a different intensity.

“For me, I had to adapt quickly because expectations were high. Unfortunately, it is not what I did at the beginning but I have always had the manager’s trust and the players have supported me.

“I keep working hard to perform well and adapt to the Premier League.”

The 24-year-old also opened up on his relationship with fellow attackers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette, both of whom were very excited about his acquisition in the summer.

“We have played very little together,” he added. “But we get on well, we all speak French. For us, it is easy to understand each other. I hope we will play more together.

“As soon as I arrived they helped me. I talked a lot to them. Matteo (Guendouzi) too.

“I also manage to talk to the other players because it is important to learn the language to communicate with everyone.”

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Rich
Rich

Seems like a level headed lad, he analyses his adaption and struggles pretty well.

I was watching a video of all his career goals+assists, and those were only his second and third goals from direct free kicks, so hopefully this is something he’s added to his game through hard work on the training ground.

His adaption hasn’t been as bad as some have made out, hopefully we can get 15 goals and 15 assists out of him this season, and next season he’ll be ready to tear it up from the off.

Dombo
Dombo

I’ve watched some highlights too and quite many of his goals were from these positions in open play, where he cut in from the flank and put it to far corner. Hope he gets that going for him soon. He’s tried it a few times but the accuracy hasn’t yet been there.

Ravi
Ravi

Hope this kickstarts his season and we get the best of him!

Atom
Atom

So leaving aside tactics, the one thing I’ve liked about Emery vs Wenger is we appear to be much smarter about not rushing players back in after injuries & situations like this. I would prefer to see our cup defense sans Mustafi as our PL defense, but by and large Emery has done a good job of managing 3 players coming off fairly lengthy injuries

Vonnie
Vonnie

With the new set up the fitness team would have a far bigger say than in the past, Arsene could override them but I don’t think Emery can. We do appear much better at managing them, and also taking players off as soon as they feel something, none of that man up, play on and make it ten times worse nonsense that happened before.

atom
atom

The modern set up really is much better in that regard to the all powerful manager. Emery has to answer to Raul & Edu who are there to keep the long term interests of the club (players) in regard.

I tend to think Wenger had slipped on the coaching side (young players simply stagnated under him the past few years & our style the last few years looks like it does now) but it would have been really interesting to see if he were able to achieve more the last few years had he been willing to accept the help that comes with a modern set up. It’s simply too much in the modern game to ask anyone person to run everything – that worked much better in the old days when scouting was much more word of mouth.

Dan nichols
Dan nichols

Has he been too cautious with Holding? I think so! he was training with the first team in America whilst i was on a long forgotten summer hols and still appears to be in pre season now. I do not think any of him Bellerin or tierney are now first choice. Not that they are being nursed in slowly . He is over cautious about everything IMO

atom
atom

@dan

I think it’s easy to forget what a major injury and acl tear is – 20/25 years ago it would have still been a career ender for a lot of players. Your knee isn’t as structurally sound if you come back too soon = you run a risk of injuring it further which would have long term ramifications for the player.

Look at Ramsey & Jack who both have suffered from long term injuries likely as a result of injuries earlier in their career (Ramsey broken leg while Jack appears to have been brought back too soon from ankle injuries).

We want Holding/ Tierney/ Hector to be mainstays hopefully for the next decade for us. I don’t want that jeopardized by rushing them back. Also keep in mind that training is very different than the uncontrolled environment of a game.

db10s

Í’ve had my ACL done and even though I don’t have world class rehab, it’s still going to be a big deal with regardless. It’s been almost 4 years now and my knee still feels abit alien at times like it stopped recovering at 95% of what it once was. The issue is more of teaching your body to relearn basic movements because the knee feels/reacts differently to what it did before.

So for example even though it’s 100% painless after the 6-7 month of recovery, my muscles around the knee will get tired out just from walking an hour because I’ve to re calibrate the way I walk and strengthen certain muscles around the knee that are used more now. I’d imagine it would lead to Diaby like muscle imbalance issues if you resume full pro level sports too fast.

North London is Redder
North London is Redder

Can we just demand that everyone at arsenal learns French? It’d give us an advantage in getting the best players too!

Alex
Alex

He is not French.

A Different George
A Different George

He speaks French, and it is almost certainly his first language. He was born and raised in France. It is his absolute right to decide to play for Cote d’Ivoire rather than France but, speaking only in terms of communication, he is as French as Lacazette and Guendouzi.

Millar
Millar

Born and bred in France

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts

Emery’s French is terrible apparently.

gunnerd
gunnerd

“bon ebbening”

A P
A P

Useful when one is complaining about Emery’s tactics.

Mpls
Mpls

Haha, perhaps his German is better and Ozil keeps getting caught doing so

Pepedinho
Pepedinho

I always knew this guy is special. Expectations we’re very high because of the fee involved in his transfer. But he is gradually bedding in and proving doubters wrong.

I gave him till January or probably the whole season to complete his adaptation period and take the league by storm. But if he decides to start now, I will take it as a big bonus.

Get in Pepe..

Ace Boogie
Ace Boogie

Completely reasonable. Planets of gradual positives from him as the season has progressed. I for one have seen enough to think he’s going to be a hit. He can beat any def it seems and once he gets rolling, and hopefully our team structure improves, we’ve got quite a player on our hands. Not the best performance but brilliance gets us through. On to Palace!

Man Manny
Man Manny

I am willing to wait till next season to see the best of Pepe.
Two goals in a Europa league may jumpstart his career at Arsenal…and it may not.
Patience is still required; but I am certain Pepe’s name will be on virtually every pundit’s lip for all the right reasons in the near future.
He is no Gervinho!

Teryima Adi
Teryima Adi

We trust those awesome free kicks would be the norm, Bro.

Naked Cygan
Naked Cygan

Dont worry Pepe, you take your time. Some of our legends took about 6 months to adapt. Look at Bergkamp and Pires. They are legends we will never forget. We know you have the skills and talent.

Cliff Bastin
Cliff Bastin

Also it would help of he wasn’t always completely isolated on the wing.

A Different George
A Different George

Really, he was our best player against Sheffield United, despite the miss. He has great pace, exceptional technical ability, and is very intelligent in his movement. Although his finishing has been poor, that has had little to do with the greater intensity or physical nature of the Premier League and looks more like rust to me. It would help, of course, if he got the ball in better areas, so that after he beats one man, he doesn’t have to try to beat two more. Bellerin on his flank will help, as would a playmaking attacking midfielder.

HelderHughes
HelderHughes

Technical ability? Greater intensity? Install a playmaker?

That you Arsene?

Ozenal
Ozenal

Torreira was also in the Copa Libertadores.
Lack of pre season doesn’t help players integrate and they also have to play catch up on the tactical front.

Santori
Santori

Exactly.

Add to Bellerin, Tierney, you saw Tierney go down with cramps late in game, Holding maybe he is building his confidence (was still too easily rolled round for one of the early opportunities from Vitoria)

Too many fans only choose to see what they want to.

Santori
Santori

Proof is in the pudding.

He will have to replicate his output midweek now.

I think its right now for the gaffer to be more demanding of Pepe but also all the others in the squad.

Who delivers should start.

Martinelli showed good hunger, Pepe had the ability and he will have to keep pairing that with hard work to start to sustain performance. Too early to say he’s there yet but certainly a good sign.

Santori
Santori

The other thing is all these people who think they know better and insist sayBellerin or Tierney should start in PL, you saw Tierney go down with cramps midweek late in game. Clearly he isn’t quite there yet.

Too many people think this is FIFA and they know better with selection over Unai like that’s the only issue.

There’s also injury exposure, plus hunger in certain players to manage.

This isn’t widgets.