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Mikel Arteta sends message to Nicolas Pepe following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s return

Mikel Arteta has praised the renewed worth ethic of the resurgent Nicolas Pepe but has told Arsenal’s record signing only a continuation of the hard work he has shown in recent weeks will see him keep his place, particularly with skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang available for selection again.

The Ivory Coast international has struggled to cope with the burden placed on his shoulders following Arsenal decision to spend £72million on him when they recruited him from Lille 18 months ago.

Pepe has played the majority of his Arsenal career on the right wing, utilising his ability to cut in and use his natural left foot to devastating effect.

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That tactic, however, has led to the 25-year-old becoming a predictable opponent for opposition defenders and his upturn in form has coincided with Arteta opting to deploy him on the opposite flank.

The 25-year-old scored for the third successive away game in the Premier League during Tuesday’s defeat against Wolves, bambloozing two defenders before supplying a devastating finish with his right foot.

That position on the right flank has been made his own by Aubameyang during Arteta’s tenure, and with the club captain in contention to start against Aston Villa on Saturday, having returned as a substitute at Molineux in place of Pepe, the Arsenal boss has a big decision to make.

Mikel Arteta sends message to Nicolas Pepe following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's return

Mikel Arteta sends message to Nicolas Pepe following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s return

Aubameyang missed three games in all competitions recently, observing Covid-19 protocols after he was given permission to tend to a private family matter, which he subsequently revealed involved tending to his sick mother.

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With Alexandre Lacazette also enjoying his best run of form in over a year, Arteta has plenty of options up his sleeve for the trip to Villa Park but insists Pepe cannot afford to let his standards drop if he hopes to remain an integral part of his immediate plans. He said:

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‘Even when we made decisions not to play him, he kept working hard. He has improved in a lot of areas and has been much more consistent for 90 minutes. He’s a threat at the moment because he’s been scoring goals, he’s been assisting players, he’s been a real threat. He needs to continue doing that.

At the end of the day, we have to play the players who are in the best form and everybody has to earn the right to play and participate in the games. That’s what everybody’s doing, pushing each other to raise the level

You can see that the level has been raised because everybody is playing at their best.

There’s still room for improvement so everybody has to keep pushing.’ On whether Aubameyang would replace Pepe at the weekend, Arteta added: ‘At the end of the day, we have to play the players who are in the best form and everybody has to earn the right to play and participate in the games.

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‘That’s what everybody’s doing, pushing each other to raise the level. You can see that the level has been raised because everybody is playing at their best. There’s still room for improvement so everybody has to keep pushing

Read 👉  Arsenal confident on sealing Kieran Tierney deal with Celtic

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