Willian made his debut for Arsenal in the weekend’s 3-0 win over Fulham, but where does that leave Nicolas Pepe?
The Ivory Coast international joined the club last summer in a club-record £72 Million deal, BBC stated, and struggled to hit the ground running initially.
Mikel Arteta’s arrival in December brought vast improvements from the former Lille winger, much like he brought improvement from a large number of the group, and he very much killed off any talk of him being labelled an expensive flop with his performances in 2020.
So far this season however, Pepe has found himself left out of both the Community Shield win over Liverpool, as well as being benched for the opening Premier League weekend win over Fulham, with new signing Willian stealing the limelight in his place.
The Brazilian picked up two assists, as well as forcing the Fulham keeper into making an error for the first goal, with Willian’s shot being parried into the path of Alexandre Lacazette to tap home. I’d personally credit that with a third assist, but he was officially given just the two.
Arsenal now have another London derby in West Ham to contend in the coming weekend, and you would struggle to find a reason to drop the former Chelsea forward, but where does that leave Nicolas Pepe?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is indispensable in his LW role, and Mikel Arteta appears to have zero intention of playing him centrally, which could well limit Pepe to the bench for some time.
You also have to consider the fact that Bukayo Saka is knocking on the door for minutes too, with the 18 year-old getting the nod to start in the front three in the Community Shield, before missing out at the weekend also.
Saka can of course fill in at wing-back, or as part of a midfield three as he did during the previous campaign, but Pepe has so far been limited to just the one role.
There has been talk of a possible switch to a back four, with a 4-2-3-1 system eyed which could well open the door for Willian to move into a central role in behind the striker, making room out wide, but we are yet to find out if those rumours are true.
Could Pepe be third-choice for his favoured role at present? And does his best bet at regular action stem on a formation change by the boss?