Arsenal’s most expensive player ever is the French winger Nicolas Pepe, but he was hardly used by Mikel Arteta this season, in fact he hadn’t played in a League game since October until he went off to AFCON with the Cote D’Ivoire.
But he seems to have come back from Cameroon rejuvenated and starting to impress the Boss, enough for Arteta to mention last week that he deserved to get some time back on the pitch.
Arteta told us how he viewed Pepe’s change of attitude. “I told you last week, I see a different Nico. I don’t know, it’s his energy, his happiness, his all-round play, how he’s training, I was convinced that he could come in and do something for the team.”
That chance came when we were 1-0 down against Wolves with just 20 minutes to make a difference. He only needed ten, when he did a lovely turn in the Wolves box and pulled us level. This set us up for our final assault which ended in a last minute winner and cued the wild celebrations.
Arteta was very pleased (like all of us) after the game, aand when asked about Pepe’s contibution, he said: “He’s on the right path and when you’re able to do that and contribute to the team, you’re going to get more minutes. The more minutes you have, you need to make the most out of them in training every single day and show what you can do. He has the ability to do it, that’s for sure.”
But the question is whether he has shown enough to actually become a starter. In fact if Smith-Rowe had been on the bench he may not have even got on the pitch in the first place.
Who could he replace in the starting line up right now? I could see him perhaps being used as a centre-forward in place of Lacazette, but if the squad is all fit, who could Arteta remove from the front line?
Will Pepe simply have to wait for a few more injuries before he gets another chance?
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