Arsenal legend Martin Keown has insisted Lille will be delighted with the transfer fee they earned on Nicolas Pepe after the winger’s underwhelming start to life in the Premier League.
The Ivorian winger is Arsenal’s £72million club-record signing but has struggled to live up to expectations that followed his mega-money move to the Emirates Stadium from Ligue 1. He has one goal and two assists in nine appearances for the Gunners but was particularly wasteful against Manchester United on Monday and played just 24 minutes of the Europa League win over Standard Liege.
However, Keown believes the Ivorian may be struggling to get into Unai Emery’s team soon and that the club are at risk of stunting the growth of young players by playing him. Keown said on BT Sport: ‘If you think back to Arsene Wenger, he would have never have blocked the path of a young player but they are in danger of doing that with Bukayo Saka.
‘Pepe, is he going to get into the team? It’s a massive amount of money they have paid for him and Lille will be laughing all the way to the bank with that one. ‘It’s still early days and maybe the player will turn it around but I haven’t really seen what I expected to see from him.’
Michael Owen was just as critical, admitting his impressive start to life at Arsenal has quickly faded away. ‘We’re talking a lot of positives about Arsenal at the moment but I think there is one little negative eating away and that is Pepe,’ Owen added.
‘I was excited by him, I saw him in the French league and he looked a very good player, he started the first game and looked like he had a bag of tricks but he’s just gone off the boil. ‘That’s a huge investment for anybody but it is a huge investment for Arsenal.
‘I’d like to see him come on and play really well today, against an average team, show his stuff and get a bit of confidence. That’s a concern.’