Arsenal: Arteta sends Pepe message over good form
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Arsenal star Nicolas Pepe has been warned he is facing the same problem as Gareth Bale at Tottenham. Arsenal’s club-record signing Pepe has made just eight starts in the Premier League this season. The Ivory Coast international enjoyed a run in the side of late, scoring in matches at Southampton and Wolves.
However, Pepe has been left out of the starting XI for the last two games against Leeds United and Benfica.
Emile Smith Rowe has been preferred in that position by Mikel Arteta, with January signing Martin Odegaard starting as the No 10.
Former Tottenham midfielder and manager Glenn Hoddle believes Arteta prefers the work rate of Smith Rowe on the wing to Pepe’s.
Hoddle reckons it is a similar scenario to Bale at Spurs, who has started just two league matches since his return on loan last summer.
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“That’s the thing in the modern game, if you’re playing with three up top and the two outside players, they’ve got to track back,” Hoddle said on BT Sport.
“There’s no two ways about it because full-backs now are pushing forward so high, they have to track back.
“So that’s the reason why Smith Rowe is actually ahead and is in the team, a little bit like [Steven] Bergwijn at Tottenham who actually plays sometimes in the big games, because maybe other players at the moment are not ready to track back.
“So it’s those positions, you’ve got to work back.”
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Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown agrees with Hoddle’s assessment of the situation.
Keown said: “I feel sorry for him because he did really well for a couple of games. But they lost those games. And he’s searching for the right balance with the ball and without the ball.
“With Smith Rowe I think his defensive compass is better than Pepe’s. He really works hard. As does [Bukayo] Saka. That press has been better.”
Speaking earlier this week, Arteta explained the improvement he has seen in Pepe of late.
Arteta said: “[Pepe] has had some really good matches and scored some important goals as well and I think that has helped him for the Premier League form and the recent form that he’s shown.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, in his mentality, the way he approaches every training session, in his understanding of the game as well.
“It’s true that he has patches where he’s played more than at other times.
He has had the opportunity over the last couple of months that probably every player has been seeking to have but I think overall there is a lot of progress with Nico.”
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