A former Arsenal winger has urged Nicolas Pepe to add variety to his game if he wants to make a bigger impact with the Gunners.
The 24-year-old Ivorian is the fifth-most expensive signing in the Premier League but has fallen short of expectations since making his £72million move from Lille last August.
In 32 appearances for the Gunners, Pepe has managed six goals and eight assists but those numbers compare poorly to his scoring feats in Ligue 1 last season when he netted 22 times for Lille.
Pepe has operated on the right wing in most of his Arsenal starts but former Gunners wide-man Adrian Clarke believes a change is needed – either positionally or in style of play.
“I was a winger that played on both sides, primarily left-footed, but a lot of my first senior appearances for Arsenal were on the right wing. I was comfortable going on the outside and using my right. I wasn’t as so predominantly left-footed as Pepe,” Clarke told The Chronicles of a Gooner podcast.
“At the moment we’ve got a seriously attacking left back so the left winger doesn’t need to do that because the left back does, so you’ve got [Gabriel] Martinelli or [Pierre Emerick] Aubameyang playing as a second striker from the left.
“On the right, the reason the balance isn’t as good is because we can’t push the full-back on as much for obvious reasons with [Bukayo] Saka playing as a left winger practically and because of Pepe coming inside. It is imbalanced.
“If Pepe was the type of player that went on the outside, we would be flying right now. I think he should mix up his game more, I think his decision-making absolutely can be better and more consistent.
“I want to see him combining more often with [Alexandre] Lacazette or whoever is playing as the striker. I want to see those give-and-gos a bit more often.
“We’ve seen it a little bit more of late with [Mesut] Ozil and Pepe, which is really encouraging, we want to see more of that.”
However, with Bruno Fernandes making such a big and instant impression at Manchester United, Clarke believes that Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta won’t be afraid to move Pepe on if the Ivory Coast star can’t adjust.
“Arteta is supposed to be a brilliant coach and I do believe he can and will improve players,” Clarke continued.
“I’m sure he’s preaching to Pepe what we want on a daily basis. It’s up to the player whether he wants to take that on board and learn.
“If he won’t produce the type of game the head coach wants from him, he might be one of the ones that they sacrifice long term. That goes for everyone actually.
“If you don’t do the job that Arteta wants you to do, I don’t think he will hold on to those players because of their names or fees.
“I think he’ll move them on and bring in people prepared to do that.”