Freddie Ljungberg says watching Nicolas Pépé in training was the reason behind not bringing him on against Norwich City.
The 24-year-old Ivorian winger became the Gunners’ most expensive acquisition when they paid Lille a reported £72m for his services in the summer.
Pepe at Arsenal: Five key things to know…
- Pepe is Arsenal’s most expensive player after he joined from Lille for a reported £72m.
- He’s since gone on to make 16 appearances in all competitions, with nine of those being starts.
- To date, Pepe has registered three goals and four assists.
- He was an unused substitute in their 2-2 draw at Norwich City.
- Ljungberg admitted what he saw in training was the reason behind him not coming on.
However, to say he’s struggled is an understatement – Pepe has started in just eight of Arsenal’s opening 14 league outings with the last coming against Crystal Palace in October.
Since then, he’s been an unused substitute twice, in a 1-1 draw with Wolves last month before Ljungberg’s debut as interim boss at Carrow Road.
Both games saw the north London side forced to chase a late winner but former manager Unai Emery and his successor both prefered Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli ahead of Pepe.
There were murmurings Emery was unconvinced by Pepe but with Ljungberg now at the helm, many felt he’d be given a fresh chance. However, the Swedish tactician was forthright in explaining his decision not to use him.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
“Pepe’s a very good player but I try to go off what I see in training and what’s being done every day and that’s how I judge,” he told reporters.
Arsenal’s draw with Norwich leaves them eight in the Premier League, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
The Gunners host Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday.