Nicolas Pepe: Struggling record signing should come good with time
The Premier League is back with a bang. Football fans are enjoying every moment. Like a few other clubs in the division, Arsenal will also be hoping to do better this term after failing to make the intended statement last season.
Unai Emery's men entered last season with a strong morale, picking points off elite clubs with ease. But they couldn't maintain the momentum in the second phase of the campaign and consequently failed to secure a Champions League spot for the second year in a row.
The Europa League final collapse to Chelsea was Arsenal's most painful moment during the term. The Gunners blew away a huge opportunity to turn their season around with the 4-1 defeat to The Blues in Baku. Nevertheless, it reminded Emery that there was still work to do on his squad.
So, the Spaniard approached the summer with a huge recruitment plan at the back of his mind. One of his priorities was to strengthen his attack with the addition of a world-class winger - who would combine efforts with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazzette to break down opposition defenses.
Arsenal's search for a new attacker topped their summer budget. For most of the transfer window, it appeared as though they would get a deal done for Crystal Palace's Wilfred Zaha. However, in a turn of events, they ended up signing Nicolas Pepe from Lille instead.
The attacker became Arsenal's most expensive signing with his astronomical £72 million price tag. His move to the Emirates Stadium was a well-deserved one following his brilliant exploits with Lille in the French league last season.
Pepe was a huge revelation. He was a constant threat to opposing defenses in the French top flight, tearing them down with his pace, dribbling skills, intelligent movement, and goal-scoring knack. He remained Lille's go-to-guy throughout the campaign, finishing with 23 goals and 12 assists from 41 appearances in all competitions.
Given his mammoth price-tag and the tremendous potential he displayed at Lille, it is normal that Arsenal fans expect a lot from their record signing. Pepe had his first appearance for the club on August 11 in a Premier League game against Newcastle and was met with a lot of excitement from the Gunners faithful.
It's getting gloomy
However, having amassed 11 appearances with just one goal to his name, the tone at the Emirates isn't the same anymore. The transformation Emery expectsed to come with the winger's insertion hasn't manifested. Arsenal's attack remains at the same level. Pepe has struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded his transfer so far. This has forced some to question whether he was the right choice for The Gunners in the first place.
Pepe hasn't been able to influence games the way the fans expect. His finishing has come under scrutiny in recent weeks. The attacker was guilty of spurning some decent goal-scoring chances during Arsenal's recent Premier League games. It is also disappointing that his only goal for the Gunners so far came via a spot-kick.
Patience is the key
We are in a world where patience is running out. Big signings must deliver or they'd be shown the exit door. Take a look at Philippe Coutinho's experience at Barca. The Ivory Coast international must step up and justify himself on the pitch. Otherwise, he'd risk facing the wrath of the Gunners faithful.
Nevertheless, it is still too early to raise an alarm at this stage of his Arsenal career. Pepe is, without a doubt, a fantastic attacker. He doesn't lack the talent to make an impression. With the drive and passion he has displayed in recent weeks, it is only a matter of time before he finally hits the ground running at the Emirates.
Adaptation struggles are expected but it shouldn't take long for a player of Pepe's talent. Arsenal fans can just relax and watch their record signing start delivering the goods in the coming weeks.