Nicolas Pepe has admitted it has been a ‘tough’ season for him at Arsenal and says playing international football has been more enjoyable.
A £72m signing from Lille in 2019, the Ivory Coast forward has struggled to nail down a spot in the Gunners‘ starting XI, with youngsters like Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli now ahead of him in the pecking order.
While consistent form has been tricky for Pepe to find, the 26-year-old revealed a language barrier has prevented him from acclimatising quickly.
Pepe said: “I am focused on how well we do until the end of the season and the club’s target, which is getting into the Champions League. Then we will see what happens.
“It is an honour to play for Ivory Coast. The most important thing is to enjoy your football. That is something I am able to do when I get the chance to play.
“It is happening at international level and a bit less so at club level. It is frustrating not to play. No player enjoys not playing but I have to respect the coach’s decision.
“When a team is winning it is hard for a coach to make changes. Mikel has explained that to me and I know I have to work hard in training to get more playing time.
“The coach knows what I think and how hard I am working. It is also about communication. Sometimes it is not easy to communicate with the language barrier.
“It has been a tough season for me.”
Pepe scored 15 Premier League goals in his first two seasons in north London but has struggled for opportunities this term, making just five league starts with the last coming in October.