Unai Emery admits that Pepe’s adaptation to life in England is taking longer than he wants but he insists that with a helping hand from his team, the Ivorian striker will deliver on his potential.
Arsenal surprised the football world by spending £72 million to sign the 24-year-old winger from Lille in the summer and while he’s shown flashes of his potential – including a terrific brace of free-kicks to beat Vitoria in the Europa League – he’s yet to score from open play and hasn’t really taken any Premier League games by the scruff of the neck.
“He [Pepe] just needs time, and to be demanding of himself,” Emery told Sky Sports ahead of Saturday’s clash with Leicester.
“We are with him, working individually with him and showing him videos of where he can improve. The intensity of the game and the opponents in England demands a lot of you. He has to adapt to that, and we have to help him so that he can keep taking steps forward.”
“His process of adapting to the team is positive, but a little slower than what we wanted. We have to be patient as well as demanding and what’s more, we have to ensure that he takes responsibility himself.
“He is not quite at the level yet to be able to play in every game. I believe, and I have always believed, that he needs to play in order to reach that level, but obviously, there are also games when other players deserve to play. I use the players who I think are going to help us most in each moment.
“But we bought Pepe knowing that the first year would be difficult, that it would be a year of adaptation. We want that to happen as quickly as possible, but we are seeing that we have to have patience.”
Pepe played the full 90 minutes against Vitoria on Wednesday while Bukayo Saka was taken off with 25 minutes remaining to be replaced by Alex Lacazette. Could that be a hint that the younger winger could be line for a start this evening? We’ll find out soon enough.