MIKEL ARTETA has challenged winger Nicolas Pepe to start contributing to Arsenal’s season and shows he still has a future at the Emirates.
The club’s record £72m signing has not started a Premier League game for four months after the defeat Bukayo Saka from group.
And he is likely back on the bench for today’s home game against Brentford though Gabriel Martinelli is being suspended.
But Arteta refused to remove the 26-year-old Ivory Coast player’s name and believes he has seen the player’s attitude improve since his recent return from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Archer “We have a really small squad and we need Nico to be at his best because hopefully he understands that I want to play him,” said Arteta.
“I don’t want to have a player like him sit on the bench and not use him because this is the moment where I can give him a chance.
“But since he returned from Afcon, I have seen a different Nico in his attitude, his smile, his energy and the way he communicates.
“I think he feels important again, like the right player who can win tournaments, and I’m really pleased that he needs that.
“Now he realizes how important the end of the season is to him. He had a great finish to last season and we want him to repeat that.”
Pepewho was signed by former manager Unai Emery from Lille in 2019, was Arsenal’s second-highest scorer last season with 16 goals.
But he has only scored a few Carabao Cup goals against West Brom and Sunderland this season and is in danger of losing everything, despite having more than two years to run on a £140,000-a-week deal.
Arteta admits: “I hope he still sees his long-term future with us but when a player doesn’t play he gets frustrated.
“Nico wants more minutes and hopefully he can do that and contribute to the team because he has the ability to do that.”
Today’s match will be Arsenal’s first meeting with Brentford since they were beaten 0-2 by Thomas Frank’s side in the opening game of the season.
No one suffered more than Ben White that night, who had a bad time by Ivan Toney on his Arsenal debut following a £50m summer move from Brighton.
But the 24-year-old defender has barely misplaced a foot since then and Arteta said: “The way Ben reacted shows he has a big personality and the courage to step up.
“The way he sees it is very important to Ben. He is aware of what people think of him and he is conveying what he wants to be.
“That’s what we want from all of our players because then they will be ready to compete.”
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17700575/arsenal-mikel-arteta-nicolas-pepe-future/ Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insists ‘we need Nicolas Pepe at his best’ and wants the £72m man to prove he has a future at the club