Arsenal outcast insists he ‘could have been important’ for the Gunners but for Arteta’s ‘choices’

Jason Soutar
Arsenal loanee Nicolas Pepe during a Nice match

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has admitted he doesn’t know what Mikel Arteta will do with him once his season-long loan at Nice comes to an end.

Pepe became the Gunners’ record signing when they paid £72million to sign him from Lille in August 2019.

The Ivorian showed his class in fits and starts but was not consistent enough to become an important player under Arteta.

He did play a key part in Arsenal’s FA Cup success in 2020 and was one of the club’s best players in 2020-21 when Arteta led them to a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Premier League.

Minutes were hard to come by last season, however, with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli establishing themselves as two of the best wingers in England.

This resulted in Pepe returning to France in the 2022 summer transfer window.

He joined Nice on loan for the season and his long-term future looks like it will not be at the Emirates.

Many Arsenal fans believe he should be given another chance under Arteta, while others just want to see the back of him for good.

In 17 Ligue 1 appearances this term, Pepe has scored six and assisted one, and he recently made his return from a lengthy knee injury.

It was recently reported by L’Equipe that the 27-year-old relinquished 25% of his salary in north London in order to secure a move elsewhere, with the Gunners still paying a portion of his wages.

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He will return to Arsenal at the end of the season when his future will be decided.

Pepe doesn’t know what the future holds, however, and has insisted that he “could have been important for the club”, but Arteta had other ideas.

“I am very happy at Nice,” Pepe said during a press conference.

“There are two important months to come for this club. I want to concentrate on that and I’m not sure after that.

“There will be discussions (with Arsenal).

“I don’t know what Arsenal want. I still have a lot of friends there.

“I could have been important for the club, but those are the coach’s choices,” he added.

Earlier this week, Sky Sports correspondent Dharmesh Sheth said Pepe is not in Arteta’s plans going forward.

“I don’t even think the form of those players [Saka and Martinelli] is going to have an impact at all because I think Mikel Arteta has made it clear that he’s not in his plans,” Sheth told GiveMeSport.

“He wasn’t a Mikel Arteta signing, remember.

“This was a signing made by Unai Emery and Emery has since said he actually wanted to sign Wilfried Zaha, but the club decided that they were going to go for Nicolas Pepe — maybe because of his attributes and maybe because of his age as well.”

Meanwhile, former Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi has claimed that he was ‘nudged’ by the club to join Everton in 2019 in order to fund the signing of Pepe.

Iwobi told The Beautiful Game podcast: “My last game was the Europa League final and he [former Arsenal boss Unai Emery] said to me, ‘It’s a shame I didn’t start you, I want you here next season’.

“So then, from the first day to the last day, Everton pushed and pushed and pushed. And Arsenal just signed a new winger and there were a few players that were still there, they weren’t ready to [leave].

“[Arsenal] said, ‘We’ve received a bid for you, it’s a high bid, we’re not going to get this money from anywhere else’. It was a nudge. ‘It’s a winger as well that’s probably going to play in your position. It’s up to you’.

“They’ve given me that, and Everton’s a club that’s also a very big club that wants me. I want a new challenge, so why not pursue it?”

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