Alan Smith hopes endeavour of Arsenal youngsters ‘rubs off’ on Nicolas Pepe and Willian

Arsenal's youngsters, including Saka and Smith Rowe have breathed new life into the side
Arsenal’s youngsters, including Saka and Smith Rowe have breathed new life into the side (Picture: Getty Images)

Alan Smith is hoping that the energy and dynamism of Arsenal’s youngsters can feed through to misfiring wingers Nicolas Pepe and Willian.

Mikel Arteta has taken a chance on the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli in recent weeks in an attempt to inject some life into his previously stagnant side.

The Gunners were on a dismal run of form, but their youngsters have helped fire them to three consecutive Premier League wins.

Wingers Pepe and Willian have struggled this season
Wingers Pepe and Willian have struggled this season (Picture: Getty Images)

It is some of the more senior players who have disappointed, especially 32-year-old Willian, who has struggled to make an impact since arriving on a free transfer last summer.

Meanwhile, £72million winger Pepe is also yet to find his feet since arriving from Lille in 2019.

And Smith is hopeful that the top form of Bukayo Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli can reinvigorate the likes of Willian and Pepe.

The Arsenal legend told the Evening Standard: ‘Let’s hope now that the success, enthusiasm and sheer effort of the youngsters rubs off on those around them, particularly the likes of Willian and Nicolas Pepe — two figures that have often drifted through games looking disinterested.

‘We don’t actually know how good Pepe can become. Bought for a ridiculous sum (well done, Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s former head of football), the winger has yet to prove he can replicate his Lille form in red and white.

‘Going further, you do have to wonder, looking at body language, how badly the lad wants to succeed.

‘Willian is different. With an excellent track record at Chelsea, we know he has the ability to influence games. Arsenal’s coaching staff, in turn, were expecting him to elevate the side, turn it back into a top-four outfit.

‘So far, it has been the opposite. But that doesn’t mean the Brazilian can’t come again in a side energised by youth and better results.

‘That can easily happen. Just as talent can inspire, hard work and enthusiasm often prove infectious. If your team-mate alongside is busting a gut, you tend to follow suit out of support.’

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