Nicolas Pepe is not happy with being a bit-part player at Arsenal.
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The Ivory Coast winger, 25, joined Arsenal from Lille last summer for $95 million and has been in and out of the team under Mikel Arteta with moments of magic mixed in with plenty of mediocrity.
Speaking to French outlet Canal Plus, Nicolas Pepe revealed he wants more playing time with the Gunners, who have scored just once in their last four Premier League outings, three of which were defeats.
“My goal is to play more. To have a little more playing time,” Pepe said. “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. A super-sub role? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him that I don’t have that role.”
What is the problem here?
Pepe has been ripping it up in the Europa League over the past two seasons, with four goals in nine games in that competitions but when it comes to the Premier League he has six goals in 38 appearances over the last two seasons.
Crucially, Pepe has started just one of Arsenal’s eight PL games so far this season and he has made an impact off the bench when he’s come on.
He was influential in their FA Cup win against Chelsea on Aug. 1 and has shown enough skill, especially with his curling shots and assists, to suggest he can work his way towards a more regular starting spot for Arsenal.
Should Pepe start for Arsenal?
Pepe is right that he hasn’t been given a consistent run of games, but Arteta doesn’t appear to trust him from a defensive standpoint.
Bringing in Willian over the summer was a further knock to Pepe’s confidence as his minutes have diminished with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka also battling for starting spots out wide and Pepe appears to be the odd man out.
Yet when you look at the lack of creativity in Arsenal’s attack during the first part of this season not having Pepe as a regular, plus leaving Mesut Ozil out of the squad altogether, seems to have put Arteta under pressure.
Whether it is moving Aubameyang back into a central role, or putting Auba and Lacazette up top with Saka and Pepe in support of them out wide, Arsenal need to try something a little different to spark their attack into life.
Defensively they have impressive but Pepe, and others, now deserve a chance to show they can stand up and reignite this Arsenal attack.