Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta backs Nicolas Pépé to find his form

Mikel Arteta has offered his support to Nicolas Pépé and says he is convinced Arsenal’s £72m record signing can fulfil his potential despite an underwhelming start at the club.

Since joining from Lille in the summer the 24-year-old has had an impact on games chiefly as a substitute, and the winger again impressed off the bench against Bournemouth on Boxing Day. Pépé played the final eight minutes as Arsenal earned a point in Arteta’s first game in charge before hosting Chelsea on Sunday and the new Arsenal manager is certain the Ivorian has plenty to contribute.

Arteta accepts the club’s poor form has not aided Pépé’s development but believes he will improve and has challenged the player to become more consistent.

“I think it was a big change for him to come here from France,” Arteta said. “He found a team that wasn’t performing at their best. The environment for him to settle wasn’t ideal. It’s not only about him but we are here to help him. If he’s willing to learn, if he’s willing to work hard, I am sure he has the potential to be top, absolutely top. [Against Bournemouth] he showed in two or three actions how good he can be. But he has to be consistent.”

Arteta has given every Arsenal player a clean slate, including Mesut Özil, who returned to the starting lineup at Bournemouth, but said it was difficult for Pépé to build confidence unless he was in the XI. Pépé has scored twice in 10 league starts but Arteta is confident the winger can recapture the form that brought 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season. “The problem with confidence is that the confidence is only good if he plays. If he trains well enough to convince me, then I have confidence in him. There has to be a mix between the two.”

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The manager said the entire Arsenal team will help Pépé evolve at the club. “We can’t demand attacking players to generate things just like this,” Arteta said. “We have to have the play sustained behind them, to tie everything together. We need to arrive in better positions as many times as possible for them to be able to create as many situations as we want. It is the overall structure, the way we play and approach the game.”


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