Arteta defends Nicolas Pepe and outlines ‘need’ for Arsenal star to succeed

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta feels the need – the need for Nicolas Pepe to succeed.

Pepe is yet to prove himself a Top Gunner after becoming the club's £72million record signing in the summer of 2019.

After showing flashes of his ability last season and scoring eight goals, the 25-year-old has made just four Premier League starts this term, with the in-form Bukayo Saka starring on the right of Arsenal's attack.

Pepe was given the nod by his manager for Saturday's FA Cup clash against Newcastle, but was eventually hauled off and was criticised for an ineffective performance.

Arteta has now come to the winger's defence, saying Pepe needs more game time to show what he can bring to the Gunners' campaign.

"We need to help him to (succeed)," Arteta told Sky Sports.

"In order to do that he needs minutes, he needs consistency in the team and when he has that, he needs to show he is capable of doing it. Let's see how the next few months develop."

Pepe has been an unused substitute for Arsenal's last two league games, with young players like Saka and Emile Smith Rowe having inspired a resurgence from Arteta's side of late.

With Crystal Palace due to visit the Emirates on Thursday, thoughts will inevitably turn to the Gunners' decision to splash out a club-record sum on Pepe rather than meet the Eagles' asking price for Wilfried Zaha.

Arteta was not at the club when Pepe signed, of course, having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019.

But the manager has called for the Ivorian to be given time, saying he was understandably rusty against Newcastle.

"I think it is hard to make judgement on some players that haven't played many minutes over the last two or three weeks and to throw them in and expect them to be the best player on the pitch," Arteta said.

"I don't think it happens, and Nico tried. He tried all the game and had some really good moments – moments where he could have scored two or three goals.

"In a normal circumstance and with his ability in those positions, he puts the ball in the back of the net. He didn't do it but I think his contribution overall was good."

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