Arsenal’s latest outing to Merseyside ended in a painful 2-1 defeat at the hands of Everton. And it became quite clear it wasn’t just the Gunners supporters who were miffed with Arteta’s handling of the match on the night.
For one, Arteta opted for a playing XI that didn’t feature club captain Aubameyang and £72million signing Nicolas Pepe. And to add to the Ivorian’s frustration, when Gabriel Martinelli seemed unable to continue in the 71st minute with a fitness issue, Arteta picked Edward Nketiah to replace the struggling forward.
Caught on tape, Pepe’s reaction when Nketiah was ready to come on suggested he was far from pleased, and perhaps rightly so. The Ivorian International was an unhappy figure on the Arsenal bench, looking sullen and indignant.
Nketiah, who is prepared to leave the north London side on a free transfer next summer, was asked to take the field ahead of Pepe, whose playtime has diminished under Arteta’s tutelage considerably.
Unfortunately for Arteta, his choice of substitution paid no dividend as Nketiah missed a chance to score from a yard out header.
When asked about Pepe’s lack of involvement in recent times, Arteta seemed ready to defend his decision of playing Nketian, simply saying :
“Because I decided to play Eddie today, to bring him on.”
“He does everything in training what you saw him do in 25 minutes here. Every single day. That’s why I picked him.”
Pepe’s latest omission paints a grim picture as far as his future at Arsenal is concerned, and with the manager linked to a number of players in the winter market, it will be interesting to see what the bearings from this oversight are.