Arsenal record signing Nicolas Pepe is a ‘problem’ for Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, according to Alan Smith.
Ivory Coast international Pepe has largely underwhelmed since joining Arsenal from Lille in the summer of 2019 for a fee of £72million.
Despite moments of brilliance, the 25-year-old has only scored nine goals in 51 appearances for the Gunners and is still struggling to cement a place in Arteta’s starting XI.
Arsenal hero Smith believes his former club paid ‘far too much’ money for Pepe and says the £72m man is a ‘problem’ for Arteta.
He told 101 Great Goals: ‘Well Nicolas Pepe is a problem in a way because he cost so much money.
‘To a certain extent you’re under a little bit of pressure to play him even if you don’t start him. He has disappointed.
‘I was hoping in his second season that he would kick on. Clearly Arsenal paid far too much money for him.
‘Willian has been brought in who can play on the right-hand side although he is a much different player, but much more reliable.
‘We’ve seen in little glimpses that he [Pepe] can be exciting, he can turn a game.
Smith also insisted that Arsenal are ‘moving in the right direction’ under Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery as Arsenal’s manager in December 2019.
The Gunners only finished eighth last season but ended the campaign on a high after beating Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
‘I think it has been positive,’ Smith added. ‘Mikel has obviously come into the club and there has been a lot that needed changing.
‘The culture, the attitude of the players, introducing the winning mentality, the toughness and steel, standards in training and on a matchday.
‘He’s heading in the right direction, it is not a short fix and obviously some of the results don’t show the progress but as I say he is definitely moving in the right direction.’