£72m Ivorian played five minutes of past four top-flight fixtures
Manager says next few seasons will show if he is value for money
Mikel Arteta has admitted Arsenal are yet to see whether Nicolas Pépé will deliver on his £72m transfer fee but believes the out-of-favour forward can come good over the rest of his contract.
Hopes were high that Pépé would make a quick start this season after he finished 2020-21 strongly, scoring five times in the club’s final three games, but he has been unable to replicate that form. The Ivorian has played only five minutes of Arsenal’s past four top-flight fixtures, starting one of their past seven, and is yet to break his duck in the league. It means the overall picture since his arrival from Lille in August 2019 is one of frustrating inconsistency; Arteta said time would tell when it comes to assessing Pépé’s worth and that the team’s overall performance would be a factor.
Asked whether Pépé had given value for money, he said: “We will see in the next few seasons if he is capable of achieving what we expect from him. But that is a difficult answer, not only with him but with any player.
“You have seen players changing completely and, even during the season, having completely different performances that can reset. The value-for-money question is very particular. Is it just for individual performance or do you put their collective performance too? Because to pay money for a player, and you are in the Champions League, is value for money. It is difficult to answer.”
Newcastle, whom Arsenal host on Saturday lunchtime, have been mentioned in connection with Pépé’s services but Arteta emphasised offers would not be entertained in January. “No, and it is not the moment to talk about that either,” he said.
There is little doubting Pépé’s talent, nor the havoc he can wreak with one of the league’s sweeter left feet, but his application in other departments has been questioned and his cause has not been aided by the strong form of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka. “Nico has very specific qualities that, when he can put them in place, are magnificent and we have talked about consistency,” Arteta said. “Nico needs to try to do what he is doing and even raise the level, and that is what we want as then the team will be better.”
Pépé is likely to be a substitute with Arsenal’s attacking options all fully fit. They will hope to banish the memory of last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Liverpool by comfortably beating bottom-placed Newcastle.