Unai Emery has today spoken out over Nicolas Pepe’s difficult start to life in Arsenal’s colours.
Following months of rampant speculation, the future of Ivorian attacker Pepe was finally decided back in August.
In something of a bolt from the blue, despite widespread reports of financial limitations, the 24-year-old made the move to Arsenal, for a club-record £72 million fee.
Pepe’s time in north London, though, has since proven largely underwhelming.
While he has showcased flashes of his unquestionable talent in bursts, particularly in a match-winning cameo off the bench versus Vitoria SC last month, the former Lille man has often looked off the pace of the English game, with his heavy touch in particular having seen Pepe come in for heavy criticism.
NICOLAS PEPE HAS DONE IT AGAIN! 🔥
He rips a free-kick into the top corner in added time to snatch all three points!
Sensational strike! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/HLZ6NVZjaU
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 24, 2019
‘A little slower’
As such, speaking in an interview ahead of his side’s crunch meeting with Leicester City, Unai Emery was today drawn on Pepe’s struggles.
And, after admitting that even he has been left surprised by the nature of Arsenal’s record signing’s slow start to life in the Premier League, the Spanish tactician preached patience, assuring that the club were always aware that ‘the first year would be difficult’:
‘His process of adapting to the team is positive, but a little slower than what we wanted, Emery told Sky Sports. 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.’