Paul Merson says Nicolas Pepe looks ‘out of his depth’ at Arsenal and believes he is struggling due to the pressure of his immense transfer fee.
Arsenal completed a club-record £72million move for Pepe in the summer of 2019 but the Ivory Coast international is still finding his feet at the Emirates.
While Pepe has shown glimpses of his talent – mainly in the Europa League – he is yet to cement a place in Mikel Arteta’s first-team.
Merson told StarSport: ‘Nicolas Pepe looks out of his depth and he’s going to have to do it against much better teams than Molde to change my opinion.
‘I can understand how he got sent off in the Leeds game. He’s been having a nightmare ever since he joined Arsenal and one Europa League goal in Norway won’t change that.
‘He let his frustration get the better of him against Leeds and did something silly with the headbutt, because things haven’t been going well for him at Arsenal for months.
‘He came in for £70-odd million. If they’d bought him for £20m nobody would be moaning. But the fee brings pressure, and he’s not been able to handle it.
‘I watch him play and I don’t know what he brings to the table. But it’s not his fault Arsenal are struggling.’
Pepe endured a curious week at Arsenal, first being sent off for violent conduct in the goalless draw at Leeds United, and then starring in the club’s Europa League win over Molde.
While Arsenal have impressed in Europe, they are only 12th in the Premier League and Merson is ‘worried’ by their domestic form, although he says Arteta’s job is safe for now.
He added: ‘I don’t think Mikel Arteta knows his best team and he’s been there a long time now. He keeps changing it too much. It’s worrying.
‘If you’re playing Arsenal right now, you’re disappointed if you don’t get something. Leeds looked a better side to me in that game.
‘Arteta is safe as houses. He’s going to get time. But he needs to find his best team and stick with it, because it’s not working right now.’