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'Pepe not quite at the level we wanted' - Emery claims Arsenal's record signing still 'needs time' to adapt

5:38 PM WAT 09/11/2019
Nicolas Pepe Arsenal 2019-20
The Spanish boss still believes in the Ivorian's talent, despite the fact he has acclimatised to life in England a "little slower" than expected

Unai Emery has urged Arsenal supporters to exercise "patience" with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, who has yet to get to grips with the "intensity" of Premier League football.

Pepe became the most expensive signing in Arsenal's history when he moved to Emirates Stadium from Lille for £72 million ($92m) in August.

Much was expected of the 24-year-old after a superb 2018-19 campaign at Stade Pierre Mauroy, during which he contributed 22 goals and 11 assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances to help Christophe Galtier's side finish second in the final standings.

Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, Pepe has struggled to adapt to life in England, with only one goal to his name from 10 Premier League outings so far this season.

The Ivory Coast international has fared better in the Europa League, netting twice in four matches, but his overall impact has yet to justify his huge price-tag.

Emery claims Arsenal knew Pepe might need a full season to settle into his new surroundings, but even he has been surprised at how much the winger has struggled.

"His process of adapting to the team is positive, but a little slower than what we wanted," the Arsenal boss told Sky Sports. "We have to be patient as well as demanding and what's more, we have to ensure that he takes responsibility himself.

"He is not quite at the level yet to be able to play in every game. I believe, and I have always believed, that he needs to play in order to reach that level, but obviously there are also games when other players deserve to play. I use the players who I think are going to help us most in each moment.

"But we bought Pepe knowing that the first year would be difficult, that it would be a year of adaptation. We want that to happen as quickly as possible, but we are seeing that we have to have patience."

Emery added on the work being done behind the scenes to aid Pepe's development: "He just needs time, and to be demanding of himself.

"We are with him, working individually with him and showing him videos of where he can improve. The intensity of the game and the opponents in England demands a lot of you. He has to adapt to that, and we have to help him so that he can keep taking steps forward."

Pepe will be in line to feature for the Gunners once again when they take in a crucial trip to Leicester City on Saturday evening.

Emery's side are already six points behind the fourth-placed Foxes in the race for the final Champions League spot and cannot afford to lose any more ground ahead of the international break.