Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has explained why he struggled to settle in initially after completing a £72m move to the club this summer.
After becoming Arsenal’s record signing, the former Lille star found the start to his Gunners career difficult, but things began to change on Thursday night – when he scored two free kicks to give his team a Europa League win over Vitoria Guimaraes.
Hoping the brace can be the platform from which he can launch his Arsenal career, Pepe has given his thoughts on why it has taken him a while to make an impact.
“It is a league totally different to Ligue 1, with a different intensity,” he said.
“For me, I had to adapt quickly because expectations were high. Unfortunately, it is not what I did at the beginning but I have always had the manager’s trust and the players have supported me. I keep working hard to perform well and adapt to the Premier League.
“The key is to have good people around you. I have my family here with me so I could 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.
“I am not at my best physically because I didn’t have a proper pre-season like the others. I was at the Africa Cup of Nations. I started little by little and the manager knew about it. I am trying to work hard to be stronger physically to perform well.”
Upon Pepe’s arrival, Arsenal fans were excited to see him line up in an attacking trident with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but a combination of injuries and form have seen the trio start just once together.
Now, with Lacazette having made his first start in nearly two months against Vitoria, Pepe is confident that they will start to click.
“We have played very little together but we get on well, we are all French,” he said. “For us, it is easy to understand each other. I hope we will play more together.
“As soon as I arrived they helped me. I talked a lot to them. Matteo [Guendouzi] too. I also manage to talk to the other players because it is important to learn the language to communicate with everyone.
“The manager trusts me. Even if I hadn’t been decisive for a while, I always had the manager’s trust. It is always important to have the manager’s faith.”