Arteta backs Pepe to shine at Arsenal and shrug off £72m tag
The Gunners’ club record signing has scored just five goals this season since joining from Lille last summer
Mikel Arteta is adamant Arsenal fans will soon start seeing the very best of Nicolas Pepe – but admits the club’s record signing has to start showing more consistency.
So far has scored five goals in 27 appearances, with just two of those coming from open play.
Arteta left the 24-year-old out of his last starting XI at Burnley and admits that huge transfer fee Arsenal paid to land Pepe has made it difficult for the winger to settle.
“I hope we can see it from now to the end of the season,” said Arteta. “But if you go through the list of top players that have come to this country, how disappointing they were for the first ten to 12 months then how incredible they were for the next five years, I think we could have a massive list. “
“It’s not easy to adapt to this league but he’s putting in the effort and he’s willing to do it. And it will come out.”
Arteta added: “The price that we paid for him puts him in a difficult position straight away because he’s going to be compared to players of that calibre.
“First of all the team has to sustain his ability and give him as many opportunities as possible during games for him to be able to execute his qualities.
“The other thing is he has his own responsibility, that’s for sure. He has to be more consistent in his performances.”
Arsenal take on Newcastle on Sunday at Emirates Stadium and Pepe may have to make do with a place amongst the substitutes again, with Martinelli expected to keep his place in the team.
While the Brazilian has flourished since arriving last summer as a relative unknown, Pepe has struggled to make an impact on a consistent basis despite scoring 22 goals for Lille last season.
There have been flashes of quality such as his excellent solo goal at West Ham and his match-winning cameo against Vitoria in the Europa League when he came off the bench to score two superb free-kicks to earn Arsenal a dramatic late 3-2 win.
But those moments have been few and far between and Arteta admits that the winger’s confidence levels have suffered as a result.
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“That’s part of the adaptation for sure,” said Arsenal’s head coach. “He was in France and was one of the biggest stars in the league.
“He made an incredible year, then he comes here and a lot of people didn’t even know him and you paid that price tag.
“So for him to put his brain into this picture and solve all this is not easy. And he’s a really young player.”