Nicolas Pepe is Arsenal’s best overall attacker, which is why it’s even more incredible that he has genuinely lost his starting job.
Arsenal‘s fluctuating situation is floating all over the place. When the defense looks good, the attack sputters and vice versa, but despite it all, Nicolas Pepe acclimated well and became our best individual attacking spark.
It was at the point where he had to be one of the first names on the team sheet. But even that never felt all that secure since this attack is so packed with talent and only getting more packed by the day.
Pepe lost out to Bukayo Saka briefly when Unai Emery was still in charge and it feels like that same situation has come to pass yet again. In the midst of some of his best form, one lackluster performance feels like it upset Pepe’s run in the starting XI.
I may be speaking out of turn, but since Pepe played the full 90 against Liverpool, it’s unlikely he’ll get the full match against Manchester City as well. Especially seeing as how Saka has been used less over the past few weeks.
You can kind of feel when a player needs to be rotated out, or when a change is needed. On the defense, that happens so often we kind of go numb to it. But in the attack, a single bad—or even lacking—performance can disrupt the status quo.
That’s where Pepe is now.
It’s not just Bukayo Saka that he has to worry about now, though. He also has to worry about Reiss Nelson, who had previously been a bit of a quiet competitor, but given his performance against Liverpool, one in which he played a part in both goals including scoring the second, sometimes you have to play the hot foot.
The hot foot right now is Nelson with a side order of Saka. Pepe is in third place. Which makes the decision-making process really interesting for Mikel Arteta, who has gone with the hot foot—and also just with general rotation—in the attack up until this point.
As for me though, I would genuinely be surprised to see Nicolas Pepe starting today. And that’s a really good thing. It means that we have youngsters good enough to push our record signing to the bench. How long they can keep that up, I don’t know, but it’s inspiring nonetheless.