Pundit pinpoints reason why struggling Arsenal pair are out of sorts

Peter Crouch believes Nicolas Pepe and Willian’s “egos have been dented” after the Arsenal duo’s struggles continued in their FA Cup exit.

Pepe and Willian have endured a difficult first half of the season, but had a chance for redemption when they both got 90 minutes against Southampton.

However, they failed to make an impact, with Arsenal losing their fourth-round clash 1-0.

It means Willian has now gone eight games without an assist for the club. He is also still yet to score since joining them from Chelsea as a free agent in the summer.

Pepe, meanwhile, has scored a few goals this season, but has drawn a blank in his last five games. He has only started four matches in the Premier League this term, although he did start both of their FA Cup ties.

The most recent of those ended in disappointment, though, with Arsenal’s defence of their trophy ending before it had really got going.

Pepe and Willian could have sent a message about their credentials after losing their places to younger players like Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka in recent weeks. However, it seems Mikel Arteta may be inclined to stick with his younger options now.

Former Premier League striker Crouch described the Arsenal pair’s performances against Southampton as “disapponting” and thinks he knows the reason they are struggling.

“They were disappointing,” Crouch told BT Sport. “I think they are very, very good players; we’ve seen the talent, certainly Pepe at Lille, Willian at Chelsea.

“They’ve both been very good players. I just think at this moment in time maybe they’re been suffering from a lack of confidence.

“I think their egos have been dented because young players have come in in their place. It’s difficult if you’re an experienced professional and you’re watching kids play ahead of you.

“You’re going to be upset, angry and there are two ways you can react. You can throw your toys out of the pram or you can knuckle down, work hard and earn your place back. And I don’t feel like today they’ve done enough to warrant their place in the starting XI.”

Arteta seeking reinforcements

There could be further competition for places if Arsenal are successful in the final days of the transfer window.

They are reportedly close to bringing in Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid, who they hope will solve their wishes for more creativity.

After the game, Arteta confirmed he is in the market for reinforcements.

“We are looking in the market and see what we can do,” he said.