The former Gunners forward is also looking for Willian to prove he’s got the stomach for a fight, with Emile Smith Rowe now setting the standard
Nicolas Pepe saw his attitude at Arsenal questioned by Alan Smith, the Ivorian winger accused of appearing “disinterested” after costing the Gunners “ridiculous” fees of 72 million pounds (98 million dollars).
A transfer record to Emirates Stadium was broken in the summer of 2019.
After seeing Pepe star at Lille, an ambitious Premier League side believed they were acquiring a potential superstar by bringing a talented 25-year-old into their books.
However, this deal is of little value, a significant addition falling short of expectations.
Pepe is far from the only north London player to have struggled for form, with seasoned Brazilian Willian also falling into this category after arriving in 2020, and Smith admits collective standards need to improve under Mikel Arteta.
The former Gunners forward told the Evening standard: “We don’t really know how good Pepe can get.
“Bought for a pittance (well done, Raul Sanllehi, the former head of Arsenal football), the winger has not yet proven that he can reproduce his Lille form in red and white. To go further, you have to ask yourself, looking at the body language, how much the boy wants to be successful.
“Willian is different. With a great record at Chelsea we know he has the ability to influence games.
“Arsenal’s coaching staff, in turn, expected him to raise the team, bring them back into the top four. Until now, it was the opposite. But that doesn’t mean the Brazilian can’t return to a youth-boosted squad and better results.
“It can easily happen. Just as talent can inspire, hard work and enthusiasm often turn out to be contagious. If your teammate next door is breaking your guts, you tend to follow suit without support. “
Arsenal have shown confidence in the youth lately, with Emile Smith Rowe alongside Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli for the Gunners to shoot again.
Smith sees a 20-year-old playmaker become a key man for Arteta, with comparisons to be drawn between a star of the present and academy graduates of the past.
He added: “The qualities of Emile Smith Rowe were less well known.
“Europa League football is one thing, but defending against Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante is another. Afterward, his creativity and touch in West Brom brought back memories of Jack Wilshere directing the play.
“As often happens in these situations, Smith Rowe’s luck came out of desperation. Mikel Arteta didn’t seem very keen on promoting the playmaker, instead hoping his top stars would firm up. When they didn’t, there was no other choice.
“With Arteta’s credentials and decision-making widely questioned, the Spaniard turned to a player of unknown pedigree.
“So now let’s hope that the success, enthusiasm and effort of the young people rubs off on those around them, especially Willian and Pepe – two characters who have often drifted through the games seemingly selfless.