Pepe was impressive against Wolves – but will he play today?

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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  1. Pepe scored against Wolves, so he’d likely be rewarded with a starting position in Watford. I bet Saka will be benched for him

    Nketiah also produced, but playing him on the left wing ahead of Martinelli will be too risky. If Smith-Rowe is fit, he’d likely play there

    1. Gai, I still don’t know why Arteta has refused to try PEP as a CF. The turning and the skill at which he scored his goal was pure skill and mark of a CF. In my opinion I think he has a better goal threat than Lacazette. It’s OK they are all bringing in their A game. For now I believe the only player that shouldn’t be benched in our attacking wise is Odegard; he is just the orchestrator of the little creativity we have.

      1. Probably because Lacazette is still our best defender and pivot in the front line. I don’t think Pepe has the cojones to risk his feet in 50/50 challenges like Lacazette

  2. Same team again to start at Watford if all squad members available

    However maybe ESR in for Marti as a pure selection choice?

    If Pepe came in I doubt that it would be for Laca if he is fit and available but possibly on the right with Saka switching to the left, which is how we finished the Wolves game with the good outcome

    But as I say the only change I can see would be ESR for Martinelli, Pepe as an excellent sub option later in the game

    A lot of training sessions to go before that though

  3. OT: well played Pepe for being so quick to get back the ball for the kick off after his goal when he could have been forgiven for a long celebration. It simply means that he wanted the win more than the draw, and that’s precisely what we got. Well played Pepe against wolves. The highlights delights me always esp the last min goal. Odegaard celebration with that run lol

  4. Let him come off the bench like ESR for the next few games and then if he can be consistent then he replaces Saka, Martinelli etc.

    1. @Goonster
      Makes more sense. Especially against Watford, who it seems will sit deep and defend for most of the game. Two dynamic impact subs might be the deciding factor…IJS

  5. I am happy we have such a “problem”. Competiton for places is good.
    I am also happy to let the decisions rest on the manager, and not me or any other armchair manager.
    But were I to find place for Pepe, I would probably look at putting Martinelli or Saka on the bench, as it seems to me they haven’t performed 100% lately.

  6. Spot on AndersS, bloody good job the only actual decision we have to make from the comfort of our armchair is whether to go and get another beer from the fridge whilst someone is down injured or wait until half time

  7. Pepe’s weakness is helping defend on the flanks.
    if he plays as a false no 9, it may just work and he may win us several penalties.

    1. Yes Zam, players like Pepe, Sterling and Cesc Fabregas has that style to let opposing players get that feeling they can win the ball . And just toed it off at the last second to win that penalty, we must remember even in Pepe poor games he does win penalties shout though not given with VAR ever so present now looking at everything these last couple of months we MUST unleash Nico a couple more times as the fixtures thicken

    2. First Person To Actually See That The Standard And Level The Team Is Playing Doesnt Make Pepe A Starter.

      Our Form Is Not Only Cos We Winning More – Its Also (& Majorly)Cos We Are Defending Way Better And Pepe Is The Worst Marker In The Team

      In The Same Wolves Match That All Are Hailing Him He Almost Caused A Goal – Marking Nonchalantly 2ce Within A Minute

      He Weakens Us Defensively If He Starts – Except Its An Opponent Who Sits Back Most Of The Time

      1. babasola, the team still has to score goals. 0-0 draws won’t get you anywhere in the table.

  8. In as nuch as the Arsenal starting XI team for their Watford away game next Sunday could become intriguing for Arteta to make. As competitions for starting spots in his team are currently looking to be competitive. Moreso with the re-emergence of ESR and Pepe as game starting contenders now. And with Nkethia looking to be lurking around to start too after the trio show of brilliance in their recent 2 past Arsenal matches. In them which ESR and Pepe had scored. While Nkethia with his assist on the turn in the mist of markers at the corner bi-line looked a breathtaking assist provision he gave that could make him demand to start the Watford game I perceived.

    But Arteta should not worry much over the selection problem that has reared up it’s head now in his squad to leave him with, which attacking Gunners should I now select to start the Watford match? Hmnnm.

    But I tell him he Arteta to be bold and emboldened to do something different by starting ESR, Pepe and Nkethia against the experienced Roy Hudgson’s Watford tea,m who today at Old Trafford help Man Utd. Which makes it mandatory for Arsenal to beat Watford to capitalized on Man Utd dropped points a necessary another away win that the Gunners have to successfully accomplished at the vicarage Road.

  9. Pepe frightens defenders and scores goals. Last season he was the Club’s highest scorer and also provided a number of assists. He was also impressive playing for the Ivory Coast at Afcon, particularly given his lack of game time for Arsenal.
    The fact that he hasn’t played for Arsenal since October appears unfathomable, given Arsenal’s difficulty in scoring goals. Questions should be asked if Arteta continues to send Pepe to Coventry and the team doesn’t make the Champions League. Mikel Arteta is the manager and he should be judged on the match results and his decision making, including selections.

    1. Ozzie we cant argue while we are getting results, even if we struggle to do what Pepe is the best in the team at (scoring and creating) but when we lose and cant score, then fingers need pointing. Arteta wants pragmatic football, if that works then we have to accept it.

    2. Spot on dude. We should judge Arteta in those 3 areas. To be too Pepe if highly feared striker by defenders. No defeader can go to Pepe aimlessly without being embarrassed. We need this nembled footed Pepe now than ever.

    3. He wasn’t our highest scorer last year, but was very close (3 less than laca in the league and 1 less overall). He’s definitely a better finisher than laca, though, and maybe our best. Only martinelli and ESR are similar to him in front of goal

  10. We are going to need to give Laca a break at some stage, he is 30 and he gives 120% at every game , Pepe break must comes at an away match he is probably the first player I had seen put Van dike on his bicycle, we must unleash him between now and the next two weeks

  11. I still believe that if we go “full tank” against watford by pulling out Xhaka and playing ESR PePe Saka and Ode behind Laca we can win, substitute any of them with Marti and play Xhaka in the second half

  12. I think pepe should be use for a stating bce he deserve it, bcos of his last performer in the club.

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