Nicolas Pepe has come in for criticism following his debut for Nice on loan from Arsenal, with manager Lucien Favre speaking in no uncertain terms.
The Gunners offloaded the Ivory Coast winger last Thursday after his struggles for game time in north London. While he played regularly for Unai Emery and in Mikel Arteta’s first season as manager, Arteta has moved on.
Gabriel Jesus and fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli, alongside Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah, form the spine of Arsenal’s attack.
Former Lille man, who cost Arsenal £72million, has therefore moved back to France.
However, his spell with Nice did not get off to a great start. The Ligue 1 club lost 3-0 to Marseille on Sunday, with all goals coming in a first-half blitz. Former Arsenal stars Matteo Guendouzi and Alexis Sanchez combined to help the latter score a brace. Sead Kolasinac and Nuno Tavares were also involved for Marseille.
Pepe, though, started in an advanced position for Nice as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation and played the full 90 minutes.
The 27-year-old had six of Nice’s 16 shots of the game, but it was his overall game which came in for criticism from his new manager.
Favre said after his side’s defeat: “He hasn’t played for a long time in England, he has done the pre-season with Arsenal but he hasn’t played any matches.
“He is lacking a bit of rhythm, intensity in his placements, his pressing and in his ball recovery, because everyone has to do that.
“There aren’t any exceptions. If one or two players don’t do the work, the whole team is in trouble.
“Everyone has to do it at the same time, everyone has to defend to recover the ball.”
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Nice sit in the Ligue 1 relegation zone after claiming only two points from their opening four matches. However, they did make it into the Europa Conference League with a two-legged qualifying win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Pepe will no doubt be looking to right his wrongs from Sunday’s defeat, but a clash with Lille on Wednesday will prove another tough test.
What’s more, Monaco are up next after that, before Nice’s Europa Conference League campaign begins.
Over at Arsenal, meanwhile, manager Arteta confirmed last week that he wants to sign a replacement for Pepe.
He said it was in his plan to let the winger leave this summer, with Wolves’ Pedro Neto and Marco Asensio of Real Madrid reported targets.
It remains to be seen who – if anyone – Arsenal get in, but they too will be hoping Pepe’s form improves.
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