The signing of Nicolas Pepe by Arsenal was met with a ton of excitement from fans and the media alike. His £72m price tag made him the club’s most expensive signing ever. Visions of the Ivorian winger playing up front alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang filled supporters with hope.
Eight games into the new Premier League season and Pepe has yet to show the form that made him a coveted transfer target. There have even been rumblings of dissatisfaction from fans, and pundits such as Roy Keane have questioned Pepe’s work rate and body language.
In his eight league appearances Pepe has yet to score from open play (he converted a penalty versus Aston Villa) and has provided two assists. Keep in mind, though, that he has only played the full 90 minutes four times.
The reality is that everyone needs to calm down and have a bit of patience with the player. It’s worth noting that Thierry Henry failed to score in his first eight Arsenal matches. He only went on to become Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer. This isn’t to say that Pepe will be the next Henry, but like Henry, he needs time to settle into a new club and league. It’s unfair to judge a player on such a small body of work.
Pepe has received a vote of confidence from a number of supporters this week. Lille sporting director Luis Campos was instrumental in the signings of Kylian Mbappe, James Rodriguez, Anthony Martial, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy. He is certain that Pepe will be a hit and compared his work ethic to that of Ronaldo.
When asked about Pepe, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, “I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him]. He’s not yet completely adapted and you have to give him some time.”
One-time Arsenal target Wilfried Zaha adamantly backs his Ivory Coast teammate to become a hit in North London. “I have got nothing but faith in him, I’ve got confidence that he will produce the same thing that he did before because we both play for Ivory Coast and I’ve seen the talent he’s got, but not everyone sees it.”
Pepe has just arrived. Fans need to give him time to adapt, and judge him later.