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Unai Emery Says Nicolas Pepe 'Is an Amazing Player' Amid Arsenal Struggles

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC at Old Trafford on September 30, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has hailed Nicolas Pepe as "an amazing player" and backed the Ivorian to succeed despite a difficult start to his career at the Emirates Stadium.

Pepe signed for Arsenal from Lille in August for a club-record fee of £72 million.

He arrived with a stellar reputation after a 2018-19 campaign in which he netted 22 goals and provided 11 assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances:

BBC 5 Live Sport @5liveSport

❌ Napoli ❌ Inter ❌ Atletico ❌ PSG ✅ Arsenal @LaurensJulien says Nicolas Pepe has picked #Arsenal over some of the biggest clubs in Europe. ⚽ Listen live 📲 ➡ https://t.co/0kUniX6SeW #BBCFootball https://t.co/clIggcHRuH

However, after seven Premier League appearances, he has only one goal—a penalty against Aston Villa in September—and he was unimpressive in Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Monday:

Sky Sports MNF @SkySportsMNF

❌ - Work rate ❌ - Lack of quality ❌ - End product Roy Keane and @Carra23 discuss the impact that Nicholas Pepe has had at Arsenal and his performance at Old Trafford. 🏟 https://t.co/Ps6jgU1NeI

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

Nicolas Pepe's game by numbers vs. Man Utd: 0 chances created 1 shot on target 1 foul committed 1 successful take-on 77% pass accuracy Not his greatest performance. 😬 https://t.co/2MP3MLr0qr

Emery, though, is confident Pepe just needs more time to find his best form:

"He needs to play, get confidence, know progressively better the other players. Every player needs time when they arrive here. Young players or players as important as Pepe. I was speaking with him and [Dani] Ceballos. The Premier League is a very strong competition. It is the best competition and the strongest competition in the world. Liverpool with Man City are the two best teams of the moment, they are very physical. 

"We need quality and the adaptation to play at that intensity. Because you need to think quickly, to move the ball quickly or keep the ball with strong intensity around you. We are in that process and Pepe, is the same. A lot of players when they came here, the first month, the first year it was not easy for them. But I am going to work with him. Pepe is an amazing player, I am sure he is going to be have a big career."

Emery added that being "under pressure is a positive," but he said the pressure on Pepe comes from being at a big club and needing to succeed, not because of his transfer fee or salary.

Pepe, 24, has shown flashes in his fledgling Arsenal career of how big an asset he could be for the club.

When he is confident, he can be devastating running with the ball, and his partnership with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette could flourish into one of the most effective in England.

Before the international break, the Gunners have two home games, against Standard Liege in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday and Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday. Both could be fine opportunities for Pepe to find his form, as it may simply take one goal from open play to open the floodgates.

It would be a big boost for Arsenal if Pepe could find his goalscoring touch given the Gunners are overly reliant on Aubameyang, who has scored seven of the club's 12 league goals in 2019-20.

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