Nicolas Pepe is apparently very unhappy about his role in the Arsenal team at the moment. Having arrived to the Emirates in 2019 as a £72 million club record signing, he has mostly struggled to nail down a place in the starting XI and he doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. After starting 22 Premier League games in 2019/20, he has so far started only one this term, the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City at the Etihad. He has made six more appearances of the bench in the league.
Pepe has started all five games the Gunners have so far played in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup combined, but that only makes his case more desperate – the boss turning to him for games where he obviously wants to give some players a rest.
The 25-year-old winger spoke to French television Canal Plus, and his words had a strong scent of frustration about them. He said that players who play are happy, and he wanted to find ‘a smile’.
“My goal is to play more. To have a little more playing time,” he said.
“A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again.
“He (Arteta) wants me to be 100 per cent focused during the 90 minutes of the match. Afterwards, I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend. But the coach speaks to me, he also has assistants who are there for that. But it is frustrating for any player to be on the bench.”
Pepe’s apparent frustration is certainly understandable. No player likes not playing regularly, but perhaps it’s time for him to start asking questions of himself in that aspect. A player who comes in and breaks the club’s transfer record is usually expected to perform. Maybe not straight away; every player needs a period of time to adapt to new surroundings, new teammates, style of play and tactical demands. But Pepe has been at Arsenal for over a year now, he hasn’t had any long-term injury absences, and the fact that Mikel Arteta took over months after his arrival from Lille practically puts him in the same position as most of the squad when it comes to adapting to the way the boss works.
His talent is unquestionable. It is to be hoped he achieves the level of consistency required for Arteta to give him the game-time he requires to find that smile.