Freddie Ljungberg Will 'Have a Chat' with Nicolas Pepe over Arsenal Struggles

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2019

GUIMARAES, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 06: Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal FC looks on during the UEFA Europa League group F match between Vitoria Guimaraes and Arsenal FC at Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques on November 06, 2019 in Guimaraes, Portugal. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Freddie Ljungberg has said he will speak to Nicolas Pepe following his difficult start to life at the club.

The Gunners paid a club-record £72 million fee to sign the Ivory Coast winger in the summer, although he's failed to make much of an impact since his switch from Lille. In Ljungberg's first game in charge, a 2-2 draw at Norwich City, the forward didn't get on the pitch, with the new coach turning to teenagers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka from the bench.

Speaking about Pepe, Ljungberg said he expects the forward to come good, citing the time taken for players to adapt to English footballl:

"Nico is someone who is a very, very good player, but sometimes when you come from a different league it takes time to adapt. Off the pitch and on the pitch.

"But Nico is someone I plan on talking to. We are going to have a little chat about things, how he feels, because he is an important football player."

Ljungberg added that he's not sure a loss of confidence is the key reason behind the player's struggles. 

"No, I don't. I just think it's a new country and a new way of playing," said the Swede. "I'm going to have a chat with him about what I expect and how I want to play."

James McNicholas of The Athletic observed Pepe's decreased involvement recently:

gunnerblog @gunnerblog

Since Ozil was reintroduced against Liverpool, the German has racked up 544 minutes of playing time. In the same period, Pepe has managed just 148. A piece on how the return of Arsenal’s biggest earner appears to have impacted upon their record signing. https://t.co/kI1UKfxWto

When Pepe arrived at the Emirates Stadium in the summer, it was anticipated he would add another exciting edge to an Arsenal attack that already contained Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

However, he's struggled to settle into what has been a toiling side, with just one Premier League goal to show for his efforts this season. Given the 24-year-old netted 22 times in Ligue 1 last term, it's a disappointing return.

Ljungberg bringing on Saka instead of Pepe against Norwich doesn't necessarily mean that will be the case every game:

James Benge @jamesbenge

Ljungberg has coached these players for a matter of hours. Just because he has brought on Saka instead of Pepe does not mean this is necessarily a snub or indicative of his long-term thinking. He knows Saka, knows what he can ask him to do.

For Ljungberg, getting the best out of Pepe will be one of his priorities as Arsenal boss. If he can, then you sense he'll be in the frame to take over from Unai Emery on a permanent basis; James Olley of the Evening Standard reported the former midfielder is a "genuine contender" to be given the position full time.

The Gunners have not won in their last eight games in all competitions. On Thursday, they host a Brighton & Hove Albion side who have lost their previous three fixtures.