John Barnes defends struggling Arsenal wingers Willian and Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal FC Training Session
The two forwards have struggled at the Emirates (Picture: Getty Images)

John Barnes has leapt to the defence of Arsenal winger Willian and Nicolas Pepe amid their ongoing struggles at the Emirates.

Both forwards have underwhelmed for the Gunners this season and been replaced in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI by their younger, more dynamic team-mates in recent weeks.

After a miserable start to the campaign, the introduction of the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe has been pivotal in Arsenal’s resurgence in form.

The Gunners splashed out £72m on Pepe in 2019
The Gunners splashed out £72m on Pepe in 2019 (Picture: Getty Images)

The Gunners have picked up 10 points from their last four Premier League games to climb up to 11th place in the table.

Willian has found playing time increasingly difficult to come by after an underwhelming beginning to his Arsenal career.

The 32-year-old has struggled to make an impact since arriving at the Emirates last summer following the expiration of his contract at London rivals Chelsea.

But Liverpool legend Barnes feels that Arsenal’s lack of consistency is partly to blame for Willian’s off-colour performances.

‘I don’t think they’re going to offload [Willian],’ Barnes told BonusCodeBets.

‘No one was going to give him a three-year contract, but they did. It hasn’t worked for him at the moment, but he’s a very good player and I like the way he plays.

‘He’s just a reflection of Arsenal’s inconsistency. Arsenal aren’t playing extremely well, so I don’t know why we’re looking at him. It’s not just his problem.

‘Now, as much as the young players have come in and done well, are they going to do that all season, rather than dipping in and out? So, he still has a big role at Arsenal, as far as I’m concerned.’

Pepe still hasn’t found his feet since joining from Lille in 2019 for a club record £72million fee.

The Ivory Coast international has also struggled for starts in the Premier League and faces a battle with teenager Bukayo Saka to get back his place at right wing.

However, Barnes believes that Pepe still needs more time to adjust to his surroundings and dismissed any notion that the winger is a ‘bad player’.

‘He [Nicolas Pepe] has not been there long, and when you have players coming in with a big price tag, getting used to a new team and adjusting to a new environment, you have to give them time,’ Barnes added.

‘Have Arsenal turned the corner? They’ve done really well in the last few games but if they lose the next two, it could go back to the way it was before. So, you have to keep supporting.

‘Pepe can’t be a bad player. They have to get a style, system and environment that suits them and then I’m sure you’ll see – because you’ve seen glimpses of it – that they’ll be okay.’

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