Arsenal signing of Willian poses a big challenge for one player – Alan Smith

Nicolas Pepe’s position at Arsenal will be under threat by the imminent arrival of Willian on a free transfer. That is the view of former Arsenal striker Alan Smith.

Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille for a club record £72million last summer and big expectations were put on the Ivorian’s shoulders.

After a promising start, Pepe’s form dropped off and he found himself in and out of the team.

His adaptation to English football was not helped by the sacking of Unai Emery and appointment of Mikel Arteta in the winter.

But under Arteta, Pepe showed glimpses of coming to terms with life at Arsenal and ended the season with eight goals and 10 assists.

Much more will be expected of Pepe next season but he now faces the added competition of William arriving at the Emirates.

The Brazilian attacker plays in the same position as Pepe and brings a wealth of experience and proven quality to the club.

And Smith believes the signing of Willian means Pepe will be forced to lift his level.

“It is time to move the project forward by adding quality in certain positions, which is not easy at all when money is tight,” Smith told Sky Sports.

“Willian’s free transfer from Chelsea looks like the first step, which surprised me at first given the Brazilian’s age.

“Just turned 32 with lots of miles on the clock, Stamford Bridge has surely seen his best days.

“So was this just a convenient move because he has the right agent? Something foisted upon Arteta by Raul Sanllehi, the head of football?

“Or does Arteta see something in Willian that can improve the team straight away?

“One thing is for sure, as a right-sided attacker, his arrival asks immediate questions of Nicolas Pepe, signed at exorbitant cost this time last year.

“The Ivory Coast winger has blown hot and cold so far, which is not a great quality in Arteta’s book. “Undoubtedly talented, Pepe has got to kick on if he’s going to survive because, in the short term at least, Willian can provide great know-how and quality on that right side.”

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