Alan Smith believes Nicolas Pepe is now a “problem” for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
The Ivorian international has been disappointing since joining the Lille Gunners in the summer of 2019 for a record £ 72million.
There have been some unmistakable quality moments, but just nine goals in 51 appearances has been a disappointing return for the leader, who struggled to consolidate a place in Arteta’s starting XI.
And Gunners icon Smith believes his former club overpaid Pepe, admitting he’s now a ‘problem’ for Arteta.
He told 101 Great Goals: “Well, Nicolas Pepe is kind of a problem because he costs so much money. “To a certain extent, you’re under a little pressure to play it even if you don’t throw it. He disappointed.
“I was hoping in his second season that he would start. Obviously, Arsenal paid way too much money for him. Willian was brought in to play on the right side despite being a very different player, but a lot more reliable.
“We have seen in small previews that he [Pepe] can be exciting, it can transform a game.
“However, he needs to bring more consistency to his game and I just hope that can happen with an Arsenal shirt.”
Smith also insisted the north London club are making progress under Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery as Arsenal manager in December 2019.
“I think it’s been positive,” Smith added. “Mikel obviously joined the club and there was a lot to change.
“The culture, the attitude of the players, the introduction of the winning mentality, the tenacity and the steel, the standards in training and on a match day.
“It is going in the right direction, it is not a quick fix and obviously some of the results do not show progress, but as I say it is definitely going in the right direction.”