Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned winger Nicolas Pepe that it is up to him to prove himself and restore fans' faith in him.
A £72m signing from Lille in 2019, Pepe has failed to justify the club's decision to shatter their transfer record, and his recent red card for headbutting Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski has seen some fans begin to question his future at the club.
Speaking ahead of his side's meeting with Molde on Thursday, in which Pepe is expected to feature, Arteta challenged Pepe to get his head down to find a way through this tricky spell, insisting he knows all about the Ivorian's quality.
“He needs to feel that myself and the club are going to protect him and we are giving him time,” Arteta said (via The Times). “I am going to be very demanding because I know what he can do. It’s in his hands.
"He’s a player I really like, I know what he can give us and it’s completely down to him. He needed time last year to adapt to the Premier League, a new city, a new language, a new environment, and you can see at the end of the season the way he was starting to play.”
The boss also hit out at the idea that Pepe's future at the Emirates Stadium may be on the line, but he did admit that the winger still needs to improve in some aspects of his game.
"I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities. He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball. I cannot fault his effort at all.
"You see the way he strives for the team, the way he's working, it's been the best since he's been at the club. But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That's where I'm going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it's a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career... it's not at all like that.
"The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot from him because he has this quality. I said many times with the strikers and attacking players, it's the most difficult thing to be consistent when you have to create, when you have to unlock the door, when you have to score goals or get assists.
"This is why he's here and he needs to embrace this challenge, and go for it. We have to provide the best possible and ideal scenarios for him to be able to do that."