Why Nicolas Pepe Should Start Ahead of Aubameyang
Nicolas Pepe has to keep his place. If that is at the expense of Aubameyang, so be it. It’s simply down to form.
Witness to individual outings such as the three seen over the previous fixtures, it’s telling of how Pepe has performed in an Arsenal shirt that piecing together three in succession only conjures up those just passed.
Bukayo Saka has cemented his place as the right-winger in the team, leaving Pepe to take up an unusual berth on the opposite side. Not a quintessential winger by any means, his strengths lie inside the full-back so for that reason he’s better suited making diagonal runs at goal onto his favoured left foot.
Confidence coupled with positioning has been down to this recent revival, all tied together with persistent coaching. Arteta worked wonders under Pep Guardiola in augmenting Raheem Sterling’s craft, an integral intervention. An insistence of practicing his right foot and what offensive actions to carry out is seeing a similar impact with Pepe. Turns out, by the way, he actually has one.
The caveat remains that Pepe can only be effective when he’s in an effective team – a likely one at that – and when all is on-song with the side the bi-product is an wonderfully gifted 25-year-old.
Arteta even hinted that his mind on which of the two should start has already been made up:
"“At the end of the day, we have to play the players who are in the best form and everybody has to earn the right to play and participate in the games,” he told the official Arsenal website."
Building up to this point, dropping Pepe will reset the progress made back to square one.
While detrimental to his confidence, it will limit the team in equal measures. Arsenal need to win on Saturday and in order to do so must play their best players at this present time. Kieran Tierney will likely miss out and Cedric and Pepe have struck up a decent partnership on that flank. His combinations down that side are head and shoulder above the same interactions on the right. There can be no argument that this is the Ivorian’s moment.
Whether he has a stinker or not is irrelevant. It’s about man-management and if Arteta explains his reasoning to Aubameyang there will be no qualms.
Keep this wave Pepe is on in motion. No need for unnecessary disruption, even if it is the captain.