Arsenal: Mikel Arteta has created a catch-22 for Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal, Nicolas Pepe (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Nicolas Pepe (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images) /

Mikel Arteta is doing a tremendous job so far as Arsenal’s head coach, but his handling of Nicolas Pepe is confusing, and it just got a lot more so.

When Unai Emery was still here, Arsenal fans lashed out at him for not starting Nicolas Pepe. At the time, Pepe wasn’t doing that well, so Emery went with the youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka and I had no problem with it.

When Pepe started to find form, Emery slotted him in. It was never as big of a problem as fans made it out to be.

Now, Mikel Arteta has completely forgone Nicolas Pepe in favor of Reiss Nelson. Granted, Arteta gets some slack because he’s brand new and he is doing a fantastic job so far. But I do have to scratch my head at his decision-making here.

Related Story. 5 Things Learned Against Chelsea. light

Pepe was our best attacker before he took over. Now he’s played just twenty minutes in Arteta’s first two matches in charge.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

To make matters even more confusing, Arteta has commented on Emery’s treatment of Pepe and defended it, speaking about how much time it takes to acclimate from Ligue 1. But he also added this little nugget:

“The problem is confidence will only come when he plays.”

Essentially he’s saying that Pepe needs confidence to play effectively, but that confidence will only come if he plays. But that’s the part where my confusion starts. He was playing with a lot of confidence before, why wouldn’t he be now? And if the point is to get him confidence from playing, why is he playing so little?

Arteta did go on to say that Pepe would have to train well enough to get playing time. Which may be the caveat to this supposed catch-22—that Pepe isn’t training well enough. But I have a hard time believing that. I really do. No one has ever commented on his training before.

So then we’re back to the start, with Pepe needing to play more, which he isn’t. Like I’ve said, Arteta giving Nelson an overdue chance is nice, but I wonder why the roles aren’t swapped. Or at least why Pepe is only being allowed to come on in the final ten minutes.

Next. Arsenal vs Chelsea Player Ratings. dark

I don’t want to complain, and I hope it doesn’t sound like I am now. I’m just confused is all. Arteta is doing great, I have full faith in him. I just don’t get this one approach he’s taking.