Former Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger has said that Nicolas Pepe should improve on his ‘off the ball’ ability in order to make a strong impact with the Gunners.
The Ivory Coast international was purchased on a club-record deal from Lille during the summer transfer window and he has since been a regular in the starting XI under manager Unai Emery.
However, he has struggled to impress with the end product and he has often remained static with an uncertainty in his movement in the final third of the pitch.
In an interview covered by OmniSport, as reported by Goal.com, Wenger said that Pepe is not playing with the same amount of freedom from his Lille days with his off-the-ball movement being a disappointment.
“He looks a little bit to be playing not with the freedom he did in France at the moment. I see some characteristics of his game, especially off the ball, that don’t happen at the moment,” he said.
The 69-year-old added that a number of young players have taken the chance to impress on the flanks this season and Pepe may face a fight to keep his position, should he continue with the same run of form.
“On the other hand, I must say we have good young players who can play on the flanks, [and] that he will have a fight to keep his position,” he continued.
Arsenal return from the international break with an away game at Sheffield United and they can anticipate a tricky challenge, given the Blades have shown the grit and determination to defend this season.
Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will most certainly feature in the game, barring any injury setbacks, and they could be accompanied by either Bukayo Saka or Gabriel Martinelli.
Alexandre Lacazette has recently returned to training after a month layoff with an ankle problem but Emery may slowly introduce him back to first-team action to ensure there are no setbacks.