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Arteta 'cannot understand' Pepe’s decision making after Arsenal victory against Leeds United

2:50 PM IST 09/05/22
Pepe Arsenal Premier League 2021-22
The 26-year-old Ivorian winger came on as a second half substitute but failed to shine as the Gunners registered a vital victory

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta cannot understand why Nicolas Pepe did not take aim at goal when presented with a clear sight of an empty net during the Gunners' 2-1 Premier League victory over Leeds United at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Ivory Coast international was on the receiving end of a post-game dressing down in north London as Arsenal’s assistant coach, Albert Stuivenberg, grilled him over some questionable decision making.

Pepe, who replaced Bukayo Saka in the second half with Arsenal leading courtesy of Eddie Nketiah’s early double, saw the ball fall kindly too him after a late corner for Leeds which left goalkeeper Illan Meslier stranded up field and well out of position.

A path appeared to have been cleared for an Ivorian forward to launch the ball towards goal, wrapping up the points, but rather than take on that effort with his right foot, Pepe sought to check onto his stronger left and saw that moment of hestiation allow Daniel James to slide in with an important tackle.

What did Arteta have to say on Pepe's decision making?

“When you see that he’s got an empty net in front of him and he’s taking a touch backward, we cannot really understand but you have to have the perception of the player in that moment,” the Arsenal boss said on Pepe’s miss, as quoted by the club’s official website.

“They are the ones who make the decisions, and fortunately, we didn’t need that goal.”

However, Arteta was happy with Arsenal picking up a narrow win, adding: “Well, we are finding ways to win football matches. The way we played today, especially the first 30 minutes was brilliant.

“So under pressure to play the way we have done in front of our people is a credit to them, but obviously, we have an opponent, and the context changes throughout the game and you don’t expect to be all the time for 95 minutes on top of the game and we are dealing with that and getting better at is because, at the end, we are winning football matches.”

Has Pepe made any kind of impact for Arsenal this season?

Pepe has struggled for games during Arteta's reign and has managed just 18 Premier League appearances this season, while accumulating 652 minutes of playing time. He has started only five of these outings across the Gunners' 35 fixtures and has been used as a substitute on 13 occasions.

In total, he has netted one Premier League goal in 2021-22 and provided one assist. He opened his account for the campaign against Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 24, scoring during a 2-1 victory.

Last season for Arsenal, Pepe made 29 Premier League appearances, scored 10 goals and provided one assist. Prior to moving to England in August 2019, he made 74 league appearances at Lille, scoring 35 goals and providing 15 assists.

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