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Arsenal draw at Watford shows Unai Emery must put an arm around one Gunners star | Football | Sport


“I think we have a lack of balance [up front] right now,” former defender and now Academy boss Per Mertesacker recently told Sky Sports after the 2-2 draw with Tottenham.

There are certainly worse problems to have, but Unai Emery has found himself trying to shoehorn Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe into the same frontline.

The job was made a little easier in a misfortunate way at Vicarage Road, with the Frenchman ruled out until October with an ankle problem.

Unsurprisingly, Aubameyang proved lethal playing as the central striker, firing home twice in the first half.

The same can’t be said for Pepe though, who is clearly taking some time to adapt to life in the Premier League. He needs an arm around him from Emery.

Nobody will deny that the Ivorian is a mercurial talent, because it is evident almost every time he receives the ball to hit feet.

A drop of the shoulder usually follows with a feint or step-over to get away from his man, which at Anfield in August proved incredibly effective when he showed exactly what he is capable of on the counter-attack.

But five matches into the campaign, it’s clear to see Pepe isn’t finding it as easy as he was in Ligue 1, where he fired 22 goals last season.

That’s not to disrespect the French top flight or his ability, more that he is going to require a settling in period that he is more than entitled to.

At times on Sunday afternoon, you could see the frustration in his face.

That was depicted perfectly right on half-time when he became involved in an altercation with Jose Holebas, who is no stranger to a yellow card.

The ball seemed to be sticky in patches when Pepe tried to dribble, getting caught under his feet and allowing defenders to regain the ball on more than one occasion.

He also felt the wrath of Holebas again in the second half when he was sandwiched between two Watford players as they pressed high up the pitch before the hour mark.

This is where Emery can have an impact. Pepe doesn’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool, but a few words of wisdom in his ear reminding him to relax and that his first goal will come, will go along way.

Unlike at Lille where he was the main man, the 24-year-old is now surrounded by star quality and therefore there is no such reliance on his own individual output.

Of course, for £72million the board and supporters are expecting big things but he does not need to put added pressure on himself to instantly succeed.

We’ve seen plenty of Pepe’s ilk explode into life in the Premier League and register phenomenal numbers, nobody is doubting that Pepe will do the same with time.



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