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Arsenal’s Pepe returns from international duty to work on fitness

Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe has returned early from international duty with the Ivory Coast to work on building up his match fitness, the PA news agency understands.

The Gunners’ club-record signing played the full 90 minutes of the 2-2 Premier League draw against Tottenham on September 1 before heading off to the Ivory Coast’s training camp in Deauville.

In a squad update on the Ivorian Football Federation website ahead of the friendly matches against Benin and Tunisia, which are both being played in France, the governing body said Pepe had been “injured with his club” and declared the problem “late on Wednesday afternoon”.

Pepe has returned to England, where he will continue to work on his fitness at Arsenal’s London Colney base ahead of the Premier League match at Watford on September 15.

However, PA understands the forward is not carrying any fresh injury problem.

An agreement was reached between the Ivorian Football Federation and Arsenal that Pepe would join up with the Elephants’ squad in Deauville, but was always scheduled to resume his fitness work back at the club rather than play in the friendly matches.

The forward, 24, did not get a full pre-season behind him after playing at the Africa Cup of Nations before joining the Gunners in a £72million deal from Lille on August 1.

Pepe has made four appearances so far for Arsenal, including starts in the last two matches, but has yet to score.

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