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Mikel Arteta’s clear warning to Nicolas Pepe after Arsenal winger’s latest snub


Arsenal’s record signing was left on the bench for the duration of the Premier League defeat at Everton, and is without any first-team minutes in five straight games; now the Gunners manager has told the Ivorian exactly why

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Arteta invites Wenger to return to Arsenal in some capacity

Nicolas Pepe remained a frustrated onlooker on the Arsenal bench as the Gunners fell to a 2-1 defeat at Everton on Monday night.

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Mikel Arteta’s substitutions at Goodison Park were the subject of plenty of debate, as the London side threw away another lead to fall to a late 2-1 defeat.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started the game among the substitutes and was left sitting on the sidelines as Arteta turned to Eddie Nketiah before his club captain.

That prompted a warning from Gary Neville to the Arsenal boss, with the Sky Sports pundit declaring: “I think there will be a problem with Aubameyang off the back of this game.”

Pepe didn’t leave the bench at all however, with the Ivorian quickly becoming Arsenal’s forgotten man.

Pepe, who joined in a £72m move from Lille in 2019, scored 10 league goals under Arteta last season – the same number as Aubameyang.

However, he has struggled for game time this term, making his last appearance from the bench more than a month ago and starting his last Arsenal game on October 18 against Crystal Palace.

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Should Nicolas Pepe start Arsenal’s next game? Have your say in the comments section

Pepe hasn’t played a minute for Arsenal in the last month
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Image:

Action Images via Reuters)

Arteta’s decisions came under scrutiny after the loss on Merseyside, but Arteta doubled down on his decision to bring Nketiah off the bench before any other attacking player.

The Spaniard was asked about his decisions after the game, and his comments about Nketiah act as a pointed warning to the club’s record signing.

When asked why he didn’t bring on Pepe, Arteta said it was “Because I decided to play Eddie today. To bring him on. He created three chances and hit the post once in 25 minutes I think.”.

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Mikel Arteta speaks after the loss at Everton
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Image:

Sky Sports)

The Spaniard was pushed further on the matter, and responded by saying “He does every day in training what you see him do here. Every single day. That’s why I picked him.”

The worrying implication here is that, while Nketiah delivers in training, some other players – notably Pepe – do not.

Pepe has now not featured in any of Arsenal’s last five matches – including three away defeats – with his most recent first-team minutes coming in the final minutes of the October win at Leicester.

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Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette are both out of contract in the summer, with widespread speculation about potential exits for the pair.

Yet both have been selected ahead of Pepe over the last month despite the uncertainty over their respective futures.

Arteta will face another big call over the former Lille man in the coming weeks if he is forced to cope without Gabriel Martinelli, who left the field early in the Everton game.

“We will have to assess him,” Arteta said of the Brazilian. “He felt something in his hamstring so I’m not very positive about it.”

Arsenal are at home to Southampton on Saturday, opponents against whom Pepe scored at St Mary’s back in January. However, it seems far from guaranteed he will get an opportunity to repeat that feat.

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