Unai Emery delivers Nicolas Pepe verdict and explains why he didn’t start for Arsenal

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Arsenal boss Unai Emery says Nicolas Pepe was not yet fit enough to start their win over Burnley – but says his impact as a substitute was “very good”.

The club record signing was introduced off the bench to make his Emirates debut as the Gunners claimed a 2-1 win.

Many fans were already calling for Pepe to be handed a spot in the starting line-up after he impressed against Newcastle in the closing stages the previous week.

But Emery claims the Ivory Coast winger is still working his way up to full fitness having had a shortened pre-season due to the African Cup of Nations and his transfer switch.

“Pepe’s impact is very good. 45 minutes, he’s with us only two weeks and he needs more to be fully fit,” said Emery.

“Also, I spoke with him yesterday about how he’s feeling every day with us, how he’s feeling before the match, and he’s feeling progressively better but he needs more [time] and I think today 45 minutes for him was perfect.”

Pepe is being gradually worked into Emery’s side, with his cameo against Newcastle just 19 minutes before he was introduced at half-time against the Clarets.

He showcased some spectacular dribbling and skill to excite supporters as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck the winner in a 2-1 win.

Emery believes he has added more depth to his side this summer and reckons competition for places will have a big part to play.

He added: “One thing we wanted to improve is to be competitive in each position in the squad. For example today Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are out.

“We have different options with big performances. When every player is good to play then perfect. But the way is long, the season is long. Different issues and circumstances are coming for each player. We need to be competitive.

“Last year we lost some points at moments where we didn’t have different possibilities for some matches.

“This year I prefer to have important players on the bench with the possibility to have good impact after. The team is going to be more competitive, that’s always my idea.”

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