Being quiet and reserved can sometimes mean others misinterpret who you really are.
Elite athletes are able to express their unique personality when they step on to the pitch, but they need the right atmosphere and ingredients around them in order to flourish
For Nicolas Pepe, his crossroads moment at Arsenal has already been and gone.
The club record fee of £72.5million has been banded about more times than the 81 appearances in all competitions he’s made for the Gunners.
But those murmurs that he’s ‘not good enough’, ‘a waste of money’ or ‘not suited to the Premier League’ are beginning to look like premature hot takes.
“His game doesn’t suit the intensity and demands of the Premier League,” Arsenal legend Robert Pires said in January.
“Pepe wasn’t used to it and it has been complicated for him to change his mentality, to adapt to a new way of training and to settle in a tough league.
“I think he is simply not cut out for English football.”
It was only in November of last year when Pepe had spoken to the French media about his lack of playing time.
“My goal is to play more. Have a little more playing time,” Pepe told Canal Plus.
“A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again.
“He [Arteta] wants me to be 100 per cent focused during the 90 minutes of the match. ‘Afterwards, I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend. But the coach speaks to me, he also has assistants who are there for that.
“But it is frustrating for any player to be on the bench.”
football.london understands that Pepe has had several conversations with Arteta about where he wants to improve, having shown considerable signs of improvement in training since the turn of the year.
It’s the relationship with Lacazette in particular that appears to be benefitting Arsenal right now, with Pepe’s overlapping runs on the left hand side causing problems against both Sheffield United and Slavia Prague.
“First of all he needs the right structure behind him to be able to provide the moments of quality and winning games, whether it’s assists, goals, dribbles or whatever it is,” Arteta told Arsenal.com in February of last year.
“Afterwards he needs to have a much clearer picture of the things that are happening on the pitch, why they are happening and how he can solve them. I think he’s in the process of doing that.
“He hasn’t played 12 or 15 games in a row, which is a massive thing for a player in those positions which are more difficult on the pitch to make an impact in games, he needs to earn that with his performances.”
“He was in France and was one of the biggest stars in the league. He made an incredible year. He comes here and a lot of people didn’t even know him and you paid that price tag. So for him to put his brain into this picture and solve all this is not easy. And he’s a really young player.”
Do you want all the latest news from around Arsenal Football Club straight to your email inbox?
Of course you do.
By signing up for our Arsenal newsletter, you will receive a twice-daily email, focused on all the latest news from the Emirates Stadium.
And, not only that, but you will get exclusive content from our club writers Chris Wheatley and Kaya Kaynak before anyone else.
You won’t miss a thing when it comes to the Gunners.
How do you sign up?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the Arsenal section of football.london in fact – labelled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.
Alternatively, you can click here and tick the Arsenal box to subscribe for our Gunners newsletter.
If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you’ll want to.
The Ivorian winger has finally found the ‘structure’ which helps him flourish – in 24 starts this season he has scored 10 goals, made five assists and created 40 chances.
Arsenal want to sign Martin Odegaard permanently this summer and previous reports had suggested they would look to replace Pepe with a winger more accustomed to the intensity of Premier League football.
For now though, the former Lille star is proving that he’s more than capable of starting week in, week out and the perfect evidence of that is shown by the smile returning to his face once again.