Marcelo Bielsa, current manager of Arsenal’s upcoming Premier League opponents Leeds, praised his former player Nicolas Pepe earlier this year.

Arsenal’s French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe scores his team’s third goal on October 29, 2020. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the big debates ahead of Arsenal’s next game against Leeds United is over who will start on the right-hand side for the Gunners.

In the Premier League games so far, Willian has taken up that role almost every single time. But he’s on a run of nine games without a goal or assist, during which time Pepe has five.

The former Lille man knows opposition manager Marcelo Bielsa well, having joined the French club under the Leeds boss. Bielsa rates him highly, admitting as much earlier this year.

“Pépé is a great player with big resources and is a goalscorer. [He is] a player who is able to unbalance a match,” Bielsa said in January. “One thing is to have the skills, another thing is to have the skills and show them on the pitch. He does both.”

Bielsa reportedly watched every single game Pepe played in during his Ligue 1 career pre-Lille before signing him. He’ll know exactly what the 25-year-old can bring if he does make the starting lineup next Sunday.

All the same, there’s only so much you can do to stop flair players. Double up on them too much and you leave spaces for others to exploit. Let yourself get isolated one-on-one and you’re taking a big risk.

That’s why it’s always good to have someone like Pepe in your team. With three goals and two assists in six starts this season, he’s certainly earning another chance in the league under Arteta.