Nicolas Pepe was one of the players everybody wanted to sign this past summer, as the Ivory Coast international drew a lot of attention during his breakout campaign at Lille.
However, his 80m move to the Emirates Stadium is yet to pay off, as the winger had only scored once in 11 caps for Arsenal before finally scoring a brace vs. Vitoria Guimaraes.
Pepe, however, admitted that he’s struggled to adapt to the physical demands of the English Premier League and seemed quite disappointed with the way he’s underperformed so far.
“It is a league totally different to Ligue 1, with a different intensity. For me, I had to adapt quickly because expectations were high. Unfortunately, that is not what I did at the beginning but I have always had the manager’s trust and the players have supported me.
I am not at my best physically because I didn’t have a proper pre-season like the others as I was at the Africa Cup of Nations. I am trying to work hard to be stronger physically to perform well and adapt to the Premier League,” Pepe told the media following the match, as reported by The Guardian.
Gladly for him and Arsenal fans, he was able to find the bottom of the nets during their UEFA Europa League draw, as he’ll hope to build from that performance to finally start living up to the hype of his signing:
“Scoring two goals is good for the confidence,” said the winger. “But the most important thing is that there was a win at the end. It showed our mental strength and character. We had already done it against Aston Villa where we were behind and came back. Now, we can focus on the Crystal Palace game which will arrive very quickly,” he added.
Moreover, the African superstar thanked Unai Emery for his confidence despite his slow start, claiming it hasn’t been easy for him to stay confident so far:
Pepe added: “It’s been hard, but the manager trusts me. Even if I haven’t been decisive for a while, I always had the manager’s trust. It is always important to have the manager’s faith. The key is to have good people around you. I have my family here with me so I can be good mentally, especially when things are not going well. I rely a lot on them.
For me, it was always going to be difficult to come here in the unknown, with a different language. So to have my family with me is important. It’s not easy starting out here but I’m beginning to find my feet with the help of my team-mates,” he concluded.
Pepe doesn’t sound too optimistic about his immediate future at the Emirates, but he’s got enough talent to be worthy of some patience, especially after they made such a huge investment to sign him.