Wenger warns out-of-form Pepe to expect fight for Arsenal place
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned Nicolas Pepe that he will have to fight for his place in the team if his form does not improve.
Pepe, who joined from Lille for a reported club-record fee of £72million in the transfer window, has been criticised for a sluggish start to his Gunners career.
The 24-year-old has scored once in 10 appearances in all competitions and has only completed 90 minutes in a Premier League match on four occasions.
With youngsters such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli having impressed in attacking roles this season, Wenger believes Pepe could start to come under pressure for a spot in Unai Emery’s starting line-up.
“I like the player and I thought it was a good decision [to sign him],” Wenger told Omnisport. “He’s not yet completely adapted and you have to give him some time. He looks a little bit to be playing not with the freedom he did in France at the moment.
“I see some characteristics of his game, especially off the ball, that don’t happen at the moment. On the other hand, I must say we have good young players who can play on the flanks, [and] that he will have a fight to keep his position.”
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Arsenal have won five of their past six games in all competitions, with the 1-0 defeat of Bournemouth on Sunday lifting them to third in the Premier League after eight matches.
Wenger is keen to give successor Emery his backing as he knows all too well the demands for stylish but successful football in north London.
“I’m not here to judge coaches. I am a supporter of Arsenal Football Club, so I just support him,” Wenger said. “But he can win games and he plays a type of game that I like.
“A club like Arsenal is a huge responsibility and one of those responsibilities is to play attractive football. After that, I think the most important thing is to support the team and to win games.”
Despite a promising start to the season, Wenger does not think Arsenal are in a position to challenge Liverpool or Manchester City for the title.
“At the moment you can’t look too much at the position because the points difference is very small,” he said. “You draw, you’re seventh; you win a game, you’re third.
“I don’t think [they can challenge for the title] at the moment on what I’ve seen. Liverpool are too far ahead for everybody else. Manchester City looks to have the best potential to fight against Liverpool, but as long as you are not too far away, you can hope.”