Mikel Arteta must trust Nicolas Pepe against Aston Villa after Arsenal’s defeat at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Wednesday evening
Arsenal’s defeat at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday night highlighted that Mikel Arteta needs to rotate the attack. Nicolas Pepe must start in the Gunners’ next Premier League fixture against Aston Villa.
Bukayo Saka has been magnificent for Arsenal in recent matches, but his tiredness against Liverpool was clear to see. He showed his quality in glimpses, but the tight turnaround in games has come at a bad time.
Martin Odegaard and the youngster have been the Gunners’ best players in attack in the last few weeks. But, with three games being played in the space of six days, it would be almost impossible to expect them to keep up the same levels they had been showing.
Pepe has yet to start for Arsenal since returning from the African Cup of Nations but it is now certainly time to introduce him to the side. The cameos he has played from the substitute’s bench should warrant him a chance in the starting lineup.
He showed his qualities against Wolves, as the second half was completely different for Arsenal when Pepe was introduced to the side. The Ivorian injected different energy which gave Mikel Arteta’s team a cutting edge in front of goal, and the Gunners came out 2-0 winners.
It was expected that Pepe would receive more minutes after his heroics against Wolves. However, the magnificent performances of Saka hasn’t given the Ivorian a chance of breaking into the team.
But, this should change now as Saka deserves a rest against Villa so he can recuperate his energy for what will be an extremely intense final stretch to the season. Pepe will play a huge part in Arsenal’s push for a Champions League spot ahead of next season, and an impressive performance against Aston Villa will be pivotal.
Arteta said Pepe looked like a different player when returning from the African Cup of Nations, and he will need to replicate this form at Arsenal. He has come under a lot of criticism but he can change the opinions of critiques with a good end to the campaign.
Pepe is Arsenal’s best-attacking rotation option, and it is times such as these where his services will be needed most. Arteta needs to rest Saka, as the defeat against Liverpool highlighted fatigue in the Englishman’s game currently.