Freddie Ljungberg is keen to get record signing Nicolas Pepe on track after a misfiring start at Arsenal.
Pepe moved to Emirates Stadium from Lille for £72million in August, but the 24-year-old winger only has a solitary goal to show for his efforts in 12 Premier League appearances.
During Ljungberg’s first game as interim head coach, Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Norwich City, Pepe looked on as an unused substitute and he last started a top-flight match against Crystal Palace at the end of October.
Nevertheless, with Brighton and Hove Albion the next visitors to north London on Thursday, Ljungberg wants to help the Ivory Coast international reboot his fledgling Gunners career.
“Nico is someone who is a very, very good player. Sometimes when you come from a different league it takes time to adapt – on the pitch and off the pitch,” the ex-Highbury favourite told reporters.
“I plan on having a little chat with him about how he feels. He’s an important football player but that [the content of the conversation] will remain between me and him.
“I just think it’s a new country, a new way of playing. I’m just going to have a little chat with him about what I expect from how I want to play.”
While Pepe’s problem is his form at Arsenal, Ljungberg’s concerns for 20-year-old striker Eddie Nketiah centre on his lack of game time during his ongoing loan spell at Leeds United.
Nketiah’s 11 Championship appearances and three league goals for Marcelo Bielsa’s side have come from the bench and Ljungberg, who worked in Arsenal’s youth setup before stepping up to the first-team coaching staff this season, questioned the benefit of his current predicament.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 4, 2019
“I need to be careful [about what I say]. I think Eddie is a great football player,” he said, with Arsenal drawn to face Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup next month.
“People who go on loan, we want them to play football and get minutes, otherwise they can maybe be here.
“The minutes are why we want them to be on loan. I feel a bit sorry for him because he’s a great, great player. The future of this club.
“When he’s had his chance he’s scored goals. That’s what Eddie’s about.”
Whether a recall for Nketiah or new signings are on the agenda, Ljungberg is not keen to involve himself in any January transfer window planning at this stage, given the temporary nature of his role.
“At the moment I’m just looking at the next game. We have Brighton,” he added.
“I don’t look at the transfer window. If I’m there at that time then maybe it’s a discussion to be had.
“But I’m here on a game to game basis and that’s what I’m trying to fix.”
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