Arteta gives Arsenal team news before Everton clash
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Arsenal spent £150million ahead of the start of the season but none of his new recruitments were strikers. However, manager Mikel Arteta may already have an ace up his sleeve in that department that he is preparing to unleash after the January transfer window.
After a torrid start to the season, losing their opening three games, the Gunners are beginning to look like a new and improved unit.
They are currently fifth in the Premier League and four points off of the Champions League, though but a victory over Everton on Monday night would close that gap to just one point.
The arrivals of Aaron Ramsdale, Benjamin White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokona and Martin Odegaard have each had a role to play in turning the club’s fortunes around, but many are expecting Arteta to be busy in January again.
With Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both out of contract at the end of the season, a striker seems the obvious position to be at the top of the shopping list for the Gunners.
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However, Arteta could be tempted to try some of his fringe players as a no.9, most specifically Nicolas Pepe.
Since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium in 2019, things haven’t been smooth sailing for the Ivorian forward and he has failed to live up to the expectations that his £72m price tag provided.
Pepe has only started five games so far this season and looks unlikely to displace Bukayo Saka or Emile Smith-Rowe on either wing any time soon, with Gabriel Martinelli taking his limited opportunities with both hands.
But with Arteta stumping rumours that Pepe will be leaving the club next month, could the former Everton midfielder be holding out to give the out of favour 26-year-old one last chance up top before putting him in the shop window.
Before arriving in north London, Pepe was scoring for fun for Lille.
The former Angers man scored 22 goals in 37 appearances in his final campaign in the Ligue 1 and 13 goals in the season before, where now-Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa would play him as a centre forward on occasion.
The figures show that when Pepe is in form, he can be a clinical finisher, but he simply has not found that cutting edge in England yet.
Potentially playing him where his sole focus is putting the ball in the back of the net could see him to best effect.
Asked last month whether Arsenal would entertain any offers for the winger, Arteta said: “No, and it is not the moment to talk about that either. We are interested in Nico performing at the level that he can do.
“He had some really good moments since I have been here, some moments where he hasn’t participated that much, like everybody else.”
Martinelli is another player who could be given the chance as a no.9, and the Brazilian already appears to be above Pepe in the pecking order at the Emirates.
It remains to be seen whether striker Pepe was Arteta’s masterplan after all or whether the Spaniard is simply keeping the record-signing at the club in a hope that sooner or later he will come good on the wing.
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