Soccer

Nicolas Pepe wants more game time to ‘smile again’ and avoid ‘super sub’ tag at Arsenal


Nicolas Pepe has revealed his frustrations with being a bit-part player at Arsenal this season, with the £72 million forward largely watching on from the sidelines.

The former Lille attacker became the Gunners’ record signing in the summer of 2019, but his manager Mikel Arteta has made frequent references to Pepe’s “inconsistency”, both from game-to-game and within matches.

This season, his main action has come in the Europa League where Pepe has scored twice and created two assists, albeit against the minnows of Dundalk, Molde and Rapid Vienna.

In the Premier League he has scored only once, started once and come on as sub six times, with a total of just 72 minutes on the pitch in league games Arsenal have gone on to win – and that’s a role Pepe wants to change, but is finding it tough to change his manager’s mind on.

“My goal is to play more, to have a little more playing time. A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again,” he told Canal+.

“He [Arteta] wants me to be 100 percent 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.

“A super-sub role? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him that I don’t have that role.”

Arsenal signed Willian this summer on a large salary contract as direct competition for Pepe’s right-sided role. With Bukayo Saka another option on that flank, Pepe’s route to the team is currently filled with obstacles.

The Gunners will hope their big-money addition from last year will, over time, flourish and prove worth the enormous outlay – but Arteta clearly remains unconvinced as of yet.

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