Nicolas Pepe Talks Unai Emery Arsenal Influence, Champions League Ambitions

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2019

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Arsenal manager Unai Emery speaks with Nicolas Pepe as he prepares to enter the field during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on August 11, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Record Arsenal signing Nicolas Pepe has spoken of how manager Unai Emery has helped him settle in to life at the Emirates Stadium.

After Pepe's stunning season with Lille in Ligue 1 last term, the Gunners parted with a reported fee of £72 million to sign the winger in the summer. Pepe has been on the bench for the first two games of the Premier League season, though he has impressed in his cameos against Newcastle United and Burnley.

Speaking to Arsenal Player (h/t Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror), Pepe said having someone like Emery around has helped the transition into life at his new club.

"It's been really good because he speaks French, and it has been much easier for us to communicate," he said. "I am new, the strategy and tactics are new, and it really helps that I can get the coach's assistance. Now I need to learn English and this is something he is helping me with also."

In French football last season, Pepe was devastating on the right flank for runners-up Lille. Cutting inside on his left foot, he would breeze past opposition defenders and take fierce shots at goal.

When he did get into dangerous areas, he was consistently productive:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Nicolas Pépé’s 2018-19 Ligue 1 season by numbers: 38 games 118 total shots 108 fouls won 102 take-ons completed 70 chances created 22 goals 11 assists A move to the Premier League could be close. 👀 https://t.co/BkXoTehDCz

Arsenal supporters have yet to see Pepe find the net for his new side, although he did produce one breathtaking piece of skill to bamboozle Ben Mee in midfield:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Ben Mee, meet Nicolas Pépé 😨🔥 https://t.co/ywz2CkSMMT

When Pepe does eventually get his first start for the club, he'll likely come into a well-functioning outfit. The Gunners are one of just two teams to have won their opening two Premier League matches.

Unsurprisingly, the wins have heightened expectations at the Emirates. Pepe has said the aim of the team remains qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League and mentioned the UEFA Europa League as a particular target:

"I chose to come here because it's a club with a lot of ambition. They have the dream of coming back to the Champions League and I am also an ambitious person, so the choice was very logical.

"I am attracted to the Premier League because it is an extremely intense championship and the best league in the world. The idea is to win the Europa League and that is a goal of ours. It's a European event and our goal is to do better than last season. I believe I will."

Per OptaJoe, it's been a long time since Arsenal were able to get off to such a strong start:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

2 - @Arsenal have won their first two games of a @premierleague season for the first time since 2009-10. Awaited. https://t.co/6fATeX70vk

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gunners have one of the best strikers in the division, while Alexandre Lacazette opened his account against the Clarets with an accomplished finish. As such, Arsenal don't have any reason to rush Pepe into the XI. 

On Saturday, Arsenal travel to Liverpool with hopes of ending their recent wretched record at Anfield. Pepe is unlikely to start, but if he's brought on with the match in the balance, the Ivory Coast international has the talent to make a decisive impact.