December 6, 2021

‘No, absolutely no’ – Arteta denies Pepe’s Arsenal career is in doubt

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The Gunners’ club record signing was sent off against Leeds but will feature against Molde in the Europa League on Thursday night

Mikel Arteta says Nicolas Pepe has his ‘full support’ after his sending off at Leeds and says Thursday night’s Europa League tie against Molde will be the perfect time for Arsenal’s club record signing to bounce back.

Pepe was shown a red card early in the second half at Elland Road on Sunday for a head butt on Leeds midfielder Ezgjan Alioski, with Arteta labelling the winger’s actions as ‘unacceptable’ after the 0-0 draw.

But the Ivory Coast international has since apologised, both publicly and in private, and has flown with the squad to Norway for the clash against Molde and is expected to start ahead of his upcoming three-game Premier League ban.

And Arteta says the game will give Pepe the perfect opportunity to put what happened at Elland Road to bed.

“We have all had disappointments in our playing careers and obviously now we are frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men it makes a huge difference,” said the Arsenal boss.

“He had a really good reaction. The way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player we want to see have a good reaction and help his team.”

Pepe’s red card against Leeds added to what has so far been a frustrating season for a player bought for £72 million ($96m) from Lille in 2019.

It came on what was just his second Premier League start of the campaign and means he will now miss upcoming games against Wolves, Tottenham and Burnley.

Some suggested it could be the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career under Arteta, but the Spaniard is adamant that is not the case.

“No, absolutely no,” he said. “It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement.

“I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows the things he has to improve, but as well we all know his qualities.

“He has some responsibility and I have some responsibility which is to get the best out of him, get the best position for him and the best areas for him to do what he can do with the ball.

“I can’t fault at all his effort and if you see any of his stats the way he is trying for the team, the way he is working, it’s the best since he’s been at the club.

“But there are certain aspects he can do better because he has the ability and that’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do.

“But to say it’s a threat for him to finish his career [at Arsenal], it’s not at all like that.”

Arteta added: “The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot from him because he has this quality.

“I said many times with the striker and attacking players that being consistent is the most difficult thing. When you have to create, unlock the door and score goals.

“But this is why he is here and he needs to embrace that challenge and go for it. And we have to provide the best possible scenarios for him to be able to do that.”