All the eyes are now back on Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian, who is Arsenal’s biggest ever signing, was absent for the team’s most important match so far this season against Benfica.
Mikel Arteta again went with one of the alternatives (Willian) to revive life in Arsenal’s attacking output. Willian came up with an assist, so it saved the Brazilian from the trolls and Willian was yet again impressive again aty Leicester.
But as a result of Willian’s inclusion, Pepe’s absence did not go unnoticed. Out of the 25 matches Arsenal have played this season in the Premier League, the former Lille man has started in just nine of them.
For a player who is a winger, and whose whole game is based on bamboozling opponents on the wing, he has instead bamboozled Arsenal fans with his performances. It was the same old drill as last season until the start of a new year.
Trying to cut inside without any success. It was not until Arteta changed his position from right-wing to the unprecedented left-wing in the new year that he showed signs of a renaissance.
But that spark vanished against Aston Villa like a light snow that is exposed to strong sunlight.
The repercussions were a bit harsh. He was benched for the next game against Leeds, played 13 minutes in the first leg, and missed the whole second leg against Benfica in Europa League.
The Arsenal boss did not regret his decision of not bringing on Pepe, as the Gunners claimed an emphatic 3-2 comeback win against the Portuguese side.
Pepe has indeed been far too inconsistent since moving to England for £72 million
Despite playing 73 minutes against league leaders Man City in between, that was more of a case of resting Emile Smith Rowe rather than getting a chance on merit, and yet again he was given a chance due to the need to rest Arteta’s perferred line-up.
Arsenal legend Robert Pires, who was part of the Invincible team of 2004, looks to have settled on a conclusion.
The Frenchman told the Sun last month: “His game doesn’t suit the intensity and demands of the Premier League.
“Pepe wasn’t used to it and it has been complicated for him to change his mentality.
“To adapt to a new way of training and to settle in a tough league. I think he is simply not cut out for English football.”
What do you think? Does it look like Arteta has finally given up on Pepe, despite his better performance today?