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Ljungberg plans talks with Pepe over Arsenal struggles

6:30 AM SGT 5/12/19
Nicolas Pepe Arsenal 2019-20
The caretaker coach will sit down with the club's £72m record signing to tell him what he expects from him

Freddie Ljungberg does not believe Nicolas Pepe is suffering from a crisis of confidence at Arsenal but does plan to sit down with the winger to discuss his struggles this season.

Arsenal smashed their club record transfer fee in the summer to bring in Pepe from Lille in a £72 million ($94m) deal with the expectation that he would take some of the goalscoring burden off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

So far, however, the Ivory Coast international has failed to make much of an impact. He has only scored three goals in all competitions, none of which have come from open play.

He was an unused substitute at Norwich on Sunday during Ljungberg’s first game as interim boss, with the Swede preferring to send on teenagers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka in the second half as Arsenal chased a winner.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw, Ljungberg explained that his decision was down to what he had seen from Pepe in training and he has now admitted he will hold talks with the 24-year-old ahead of Thursday night’s meeting with Brighton at Emirates Stadium.

“Nico is someone who is a very, very good player but sometimes when you come from a different league it takes time to adapt,” said Ljungberg. “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.”

When asked if he believed Pepe’s poor form was down to a loss of confidence, Ljungberg added: “No, I don’t. I just think it’s a new country and a new way of playing.

“I’m going to have a chat with him about what I expect and how I want to play.”

Arsenal have no new injury concerns ahead of Thursday’s game with Brighton, with a late call to be made on Hector Bellerin who has been struggling with a hamstring problem.

The meeting with the Seagulls will be Ljungberg’s first home game in charge of the Gunners - something he admits will be a proud moment considering his long association with the club.

But his main focus is on ending an eight-game run without a win, one that stretches back two months to the 1-0 success against Bournemouth in October.

Thursday’s game is the start of a busy period for Arsenal which will see them play seven matches before they host Manchester United on New Year’s Day.

That match will fall on the first day of the January transfer window, a month which could see the Gunners dip into the transfer market to boost their squad ahead of the second half of the campaign.

For interim boss Ljungberg, though, what may happen in the transfer market is not of concern.

“At the moment I’m just looking at the next game,” he said. “I don’t look at the transfer window.

“If I’m there at that time then maybe that’s a discussion to be had, but at the moment I’m here on a game-to-game basis and that’s what I’m trying to fix.”