African All Stars

Is this the end of the road for Pepe at Arsenal?

4:46 PM WAT 07/12/2021
Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal
The Ivorian continues to struggle for game time and it brings the topic of the player’s future with the Gunners

There was much positivity and expectation when Arsenal announced the £72 million ($97m) signing of a certain player from Lille OSC in the summer of 2019.

Two years down the line and Nicolas Pepe has failed to justify his price tag. Indeed, there have been flashes of occasional brilliance but it’s been a general feeling of disappointment surrounding the player.

To sum it all up, Pepe has only managed five minutes of football in Arsenal’s last six Premier League games in the current campaign.

At the moment, it doesn’t look like he has a future at the Emirates, and he could even be let go in January if the right offer comes in. A certain event in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Everton showed just how far down the pecking order the 26-year-old has fallen.

A sorry case: Nketiah now preferred over Pepe

While Arsenal were poor on the pitch on Monday night, it was the same unbearable situation for Pepe, who was off it. With the Gunners still 1-0 up after 71 minutes, Gabriel Martinelli suffered a fitness issue and had to come off. Eddie Nketiah, who has refused to sign a new contract with the club, was the man chosen to come on as his replacement.

It led to confusion among the fans as to why Nketiah was preferred over Pepe or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, especially given that the 22-year-old came on to play out wide.

Pepe was visibly furious on the bench and it compounded the frustration of a player who could now consider looking elsewhere for game time.

What has gone wrong for Pepe at Arsenal?

This season, Pepe’s technical ability has come under scrutiny, but his time at Lille and even his early form at Arsenal shows that his problems lie in confidence, not skill.

He is dispossessed too easily, his first touch often betrays him and his once-lethal finishing ability has not been visible at all in the current campaign.

In his defence, being in and out of the starting lineup at Arsenal might have played a part in his decline. The 26-year-old has never started more than four consecutive league games, often finding himself benched even when starting to build some form.

Mikel Arteta’s comments post-match also shed more light on the player’s situation. Speaking on the decision to pick Nketiah over Pepe after the Everton defeat, the Gunners boss said: “Because I decided to play Eddie today, to bring him on. He created three chances and hit the post in the space of 25 minutes I think.”

 When asked further on the decision to pick Nketiah over Pepe, Arteta responded: “He does everything in training that you saw him do in 25 minutes here.  “Every single day. That’s why I picked him.”

One would imagine that lack of faith from the manager could lead to an all-round drop in commitment on and off the pitch.

At a time where Pepe should be hitting his prime, it is more of the opposite and maybe a move from Arsenal might benefit all parties involved.