Nicolas Pepe needs to start delivering for Arsenal against “big sides”, says Ray Parlour, with a £72 million ($96m) asset at Emirates Stadium accused of taking “the easy option” against Premier League opponents.
The Gunners made the Ivory Coast international their club-record signing when doing a big-money deal with Lille in the summer of 2019.
Pepe was supposed to arrive in north London and become a talismanic presence for an ambitious Premier League outfit.
The 25-year-old is yet to scale those heights, with many placing him into the expensive flop category.
Time is still on Pepe’s side when it comes to silencing his critics and enjoying a reversal in fortune, but he needs to find confidence and consistency from somewhere.
A reckless red card in his last domestic outing against Leeds did little to aid that cause, but a third Europa League goal of the season was recorded in a 3-0 win over Molde.
Parlour saw plenty of potential in that outing, but he is looking for a forward with undoubted ability to stop being a flat-track bully and follow in the footsteps of star wingers that have gone before him, such as Robert Pires and Marc Overmars.
“He has shown it in patches,” former Arsenal star Parlour told talkSPORT of Pepe.
“He was much better [against Molde], I must admit. He’s better when he runs at players, commits players.
“He takes the easy option usually in the Premier League. He needs to run at full-backs, make them commit.
“He’s good when he gets on his left foot, he has a good strike on him and you can see him taking corners. The reason he plays on the right is so he can cut inside and shoot with his left foot.
“We always had left wingers who were right-footed, we had Pires, we had Overmars who would cut in and get 20 goals a season.
“It’s alright doing it against Molde, against the smaller sides, you have to do it against the big sides. He has to make that impact against the Leeds Uniteds and the teams in the Premier League.
“He has shown glimpses he can do it in the Premier League, but he hasn’t done it on a regular basis.
“Again, when you go back to consistency, you have to do it week in, week out. You need to be a seven or eight out of 10 week in, week out and that’s where you are going to be a real success at your club.”
Pepe has taken in 56 appearances for Arsenal to date, with 12 goals and as many assists recorded across those outings.