Nicolas Pepe has a “big future” at Arsenal, according to Kevin Campbell, who says Mikel Arteta still believes in the £72 million ($96m) winger. Pepe has flattered to deceive since arriving at Emirates Stadium from Lille for a club-record fee in the summer of 2019.
The 25-year-old established himself as one of the most exciting young players in Europe at Stade Pierre-Mauroy but has so far been unable to build on that reputation in the Premier League.
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Pepe has only scored once in eight Premier League appearances for the Gunners in 2020-21 and invited the wrath of supporters when he was sent off in his last league outing against Leeds United on November 22.
The referee had no choice but to show the Ivorian a red card after seeing him headbutt Ezgjan Alioski at Elland Road, with Arsenal barely holding out for a 0-0 draw after being forced to play most of the second half with just 10 men.
Pepe redeemed himself somewhat by scoring in a 3-0 Europa League win over Molde last week, which sent Arteta’s side through to the round of 32, but he was unable to feature in a 2-1 home defeat against Wolves on Sunday after beginning a three-match Premier League suspension.
Arteta jumped to the defense of the former Lille star before the trip to Molde, telling reporters: “I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows the things he has to improve, but as well we all know his qualities.”
Campbell, who played for the Gunners between 1988 and 1995, acknowledges the fact that Pepe has made mistakes at the start of his career in north London, but still expects him to go on and achieve his full potential under a manager willing to nurture his talents.
Asked if Arsenal made a mistake in bringing Pepe to the club, the former striker told Football Insider: “I do not think they made an error in his signing, not at all. “Mikel Arteta wants to work with him. I think he has a big future at the club because he is a very talented player.
“He has done some things that were not quite right, one of them being the sending off at Leeds. “He is suffering right now because he cannot help the team in the Premier League but he will come back better. “With a bit of luck, everything will be fine when he does return.”