Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has confessed that record signing Nicolas Pepe’s progress has been severely hindered by the huge price tag that has followed him during his debut season in England.
The Gunners splashed a whopping £72m on the French winger in the summer, and big things were expected of the ex-Lille star upon his arrival in the Premier League.
But Pepe has struggled to adapt to the demands of the English top flight this season, and Arteta has admitted that his enormous price tag ‘puts him in a difficult position’ because supporters will instantly compare the 24-year-old ‘to players of that calibre’.
“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,” Arteta said, as quoted by the Mirror.
“He was in France and was one of the biggest stars in the league. He had an incredible year. Now he comes here and a lot of people didn’t even know him and you paid that price tag.”
Pepe has only managed three goals and two assists in 21 league matches for the Gunners, and he was left on the bench for Arsenal’s recent 0-0 draw with Burnley. Arteta has placed plenty of faith in the winger since he arrived at the Emirates Stadium, but the Spanish coach is aware ‘it’s not easy to adapt’ to the Premier League.
“It’s not easy to adapt to this league but he’s putting in the effort and he’s willing to do it.
“First of all he needs the right structure behind him to be able to provide the moments of quality and winning games, whether it’s assists, goals, dribbles or whatever it is.
“Afterwards he needs to have a much clearer picture of the things that are happening on the pitch, why they are happening and how he can solve them. I think he’s in the process of doing that.
“I hope we can see it from now to the end of the season.”