October 23, 2021

Pepe not really a £72 million Arsenal flop – Kenyan striker Okoth

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The Sofapaka striker explains why the Ivorian international should not be considered a Gunners misfire at this juncture

Kenyan striker Ronald Okoth believes Nicholas Pepe has not flopped in his first Premier League season at Arsenal.

The Ivorian was signed for £72 million from Lille and the huge transfer fee attracted high expectations from Arsenal fans.

The expectations from club and fans alike, and difficulty settling in a new country might have contributed to his inconsistent form in the 2019/20 campaign, according to Okoth.

“I think he has not been a flop because he was still fighting to adapt and again I also think he has not played that bad,” Okoth told Goal.

“The moments he has been playing his work on the pitch has been seen, to me, those were some good performances.

“You know when the whole team is having a bad day, there will be no player who can be regarded as outstanding. It is more of a collective effort and that is why he might have been seen as a flop, which is not the case to me.

“The expectations that the club had on him as well as the fans especially after arriving with so much invested in him money-wise, might have drastically affected him.

“He has not lived up to those expectations, yes, but hopefully in the next season he might rightfully prove his worth.”

The 25-year-old forward was signed by Unai Emery before the manager was sacked before Mikel Arteta took over, and Okoth believes the Emery-Arteta transition had an impact on Pepe’s maiden season in England as well.

“Without a doubt, a change of managers affected his performance overall,” the Sofapaka striker added.

“In any club, any new manager will come with his own playing style and philosophies that will affect players in one way or another.

“But under Arteta, it is a matter of time before Pepe hits his top form. This season has been more of a survival fight but in the next campaign, it will be a new team chasing new ambitions.

“In that regard, Pepe stands a better chance of having good days on the pitch.”

The 2013 Kenyan Premier League (KPL)-winning striker also compared Pepe to the signings that were made during his time of England arrival.

“There were plenty of good signings that were made when Arsenal went for Pepe and he is among the best. I can say every team signed in accordance with their ambitions and Pepe was one of them.

“Every team is always signing a good player in their own perspective, and Pepe is among the best signings done in the EPL then.

“He is one of the best players we have on the continent at the moment.”

The Ivorian scored his first Arsenal goal, a spot-kick, during a 3-2 win over Mbwana Samatta’s Aston Villa.

His first European goals came during a Europa League match against Vitoria de Guimaraes at the Emirates.

On June 28, the former Angers star earned his first FA Cup goal against Sheffield United as Arsenal won the game 2-1.