Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has defended his decision to bring Eddie Nketiah off the bench in favour of Nicolas Pepe in the 2-1 loss at Everton.
Pepe has become something of a peripheral figure under Arteta in recent months having only played five minutes of Premier League football in the Gunners’ last seven encounters.
The Ivory Coast winger has sat on the bench for the full 90 minutes in five consecutive matches, with Arsenal on the back of two straight defeats.
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This is despite being the north Londoners’ club-record signing at £72million – joining from Lille in 2019.
On Monday night against Everton, Gabriel Martinelli was forced to come off through injury, with Arteta opting to bring on Eddie Nketiah over Pepe.
This decision has raised plenty of questions about the £72m winger, and whether or not there is something going on between the player and his manager.
Nketiah, on the other hand, has rejected two contract offers from Arsenal and looks set to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the season.
With the 22-year-old’s future seeming to be away from the Emirates Stadium, it was no wonder why fans were left confused as to why Pepe had been snubbed again.
Nicolas Pepe – overlooked by Eddie Nketiah to come on – is not a happy camper on the Arsenal bench. #afc pic.twitter.com/z0c1IjAt7I
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 6, 2021
Arteta, however, has justified his choice, insisting that Nketiah did well when he came on, adding that he has been performing well in training.
“Because I decided to play Eddie today, to bring him on,” the Spaniard said when questioned over Pepe’s lack of minutes [quotes via Metro].
“He created three chances and hit the post in the space of 25 minutes I think.”
Questioned further on the decision to pick Nketiah over Pepe, Arteta responded: “He does everything in training what you saw him do in 25 minutes here. Every single day. That’s why I picked him.”
Meanwhile, Gary Neville thinks Arteta would sell club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to bring in another player if he could.
Aubameyang was left on the bench for the trip to Goodison Park – coming on the field in the 85th minute.
“I think there will be a problem with Aubameyang off the back of this game,” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“I don’t think he’ll like the idea of Nketiah coming on. I don’t think he’ll like the idea of being a sub full-stop.”