Nicolas Pepe deserves the same opportunities being handed to Alexandre Lacazette and Willian on a weekly basis, arguably more than they do.
After they both failed to score or assist again against Aston Villa, Mikel Arteta faced more questions about Alexandre Lacazette and Willian.
For Lacazette, it’s six appearances without a goal contribution. For Willian, it’s nine. Bear in mind these are two of Arsenal’s three starting forwards in the Premier League. Arteta argued the two of them need more help.
“That’s my job, to get the best out of the players and put them in the best possible scenarios as much as possible,” the Arsenal manager said. “If they are not performing then it’s because we have to help them more.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Pepe has five goal contributions since October 1st, five more than the other two combined. When asked about the winger, Arteta suggested his decision was about more than just “stats”.
“Yes, but me personally, more than just the stats I looked at many other things,” he said. “If we just focus on that, of course, there are certain players that have to play. We looked at other things as well without forgetting what you mentioned.”
Perhaps this is just the opinion of a frustrated fan, but it seems like different logic applies to different players.
Why is it that Lacazette and Willian failing to score is a problem we need to help them through, picking them up after repeated failures, whilst Pepe scoring and assisting but not necessarily hitting the mark in other ways means he’s ruled out of starting league games?
Surely the only way that makes sense is if Arsenal were winning regularly as a result of those non-scoring traits from Willian and Lacazette, not losing 50% of their league games.
It’s not as if they’re all getting equal opportunities to prove themselves. It’s seven starts and zero substitute appearances in the league for Willian, versus one start (against Manchester City) and six substitute appearances for Pepe.
We’re seeing Willian and Lacazette getting chance after chance, which is lovely for them. But the younger player with the longer contract getting Arsenal the goals and assists to win matches can’t buy a league start.
Pepe is proving more effective for Arsenal right now, and he’s clearly the safer bet for the long term. He deserves the same understanding and opportunities from Arteta as the other forwards get.