Mikel Arteta admits Nicolas Pepe’s game-time may lead him to consider his options at Arsenal, but he hopes the winger sees a future in North London.
Nicolas Pepe hasn’t been a regular first-choice starter for Arsenal this season, losing his place to Bukayo Saka. There were even some vague rumours he might leave the club in January, though they didn’t go anywhere.
Pepe starred for the Ivory Coast at AFCON, and Mikel Arteta admits the winger appeared to return from the tournament reinvigorated.
But speaking in his pre-Brentford press conference, Arteta wouldn’t rule out the possibility Pepe might start to see his future elsewhere if things don’t change at Arsenal.
“I hope he does (see a long-term future with Arsenal),” Arteta said. “But I understand when a player doesn’t play he’s disappointed and Nico has been disappointed because he wanted to have more minutes.
“Hopefully he can play many more minutes and he can contribute to the team because he has the ability to do it.
“We need him, we need him at his best. Everybody’s going to contribute because we are really short at this moment and we need it.
“Hopefully he has understood that we want to play him, that I don’t want to have a player like him sitting on the bench and not using him. The moment I have chances I want to give him chances.”
There’s obviously no way Arsenal are going to recoup Pepe’s transfer fee with a sale this summer.
There’s just not enough time for the winger to make himself one of the best in Europe in just a few months, which he’d have to be to command £72m or more.
But if he can return to his best form, Arsenal will benefit in the short term through improved results on the pitch, and in the long term because he’ll be more valuable to the team going forward and they’ll be in a stronger summer position to negotiate his departure – if necessary.