Mikel Arteta has given a gentle prod to one of Arsenal’s under-performing stars, but flatly rejected that Nicolas Pepe could be offloaded in January.
While Arsenal have found their form in recent weeks, Pepe has yet to hit the form that convinced Unai Emery to spend £72m on him. Pepe arrived in August 2019 from Lille with Emery claiming: “Nicolas is a highly rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe.”
The winger initially showed glimpses of brilliance, but generally he has struggled with the demands of the Premier League. And while Arsenal have been hitting their stride of late, Pepe has been sat on the bench.
In fact he has played just five minutes in the last four Premier League games. And that has led to more talk he could move on.
Football London have claimed the Gunners would be willing to Pepe for just £25m in January. While Noel Whelan urged Newcastle to make a move for the player on a loan deal until the end of the season.
Whelan told Football Insider: “I think if you’re going to take a chance on Nicolas Pepe, we know there’s a player there. We know that there’s a skillful winger in him.
“A loan move is the safest move you can make. You’ve got to make sure that you get a player in. You see how he settles and you see his performances.
“Only then can you judge him on the fact that you want to spend £25million. Right now, Arsenal are offloading him or wanting to offload him for a reason. Because he’s not done it.
Arteta blunt in response
Arteta, asked what the message on Pepe would be, replied: “That we are interested in Nico performing at the level that he can do.
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“He has had some really good moments since I have been here and some moments where he hasn’t participated that much.
“Like everybody else, it’s part of football and it’s part of the world you usually have at any football team.”
Asked further if there would be any thought of entertaining offers in January he added: “No – and it’s not the moment to talk about that either.”
Arteta insists he does not fear another Arsenal exodus as a result of Newcastle’s new-found wealth.
The two clubs go head-to-head in the Premier League on Saturday. But the Magpies, now under the ownership of Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium, have ambitious plans for the future.
Arteta has no exodus fears
However, Arteta is confident there will be no repeat of the raids Manchester City made on the club. After a huge injection of cash from Abu Dhabi earlier this century Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all swapped north London for the blue half of Manchester in exchange for a total of £72m.
Asked if he was worried, he replied: “No. I think players should stay at football clubs when they feel that they belong somewhere. When they feel important to it, when they feel valued in every single aspect and when that’s the case, normally players want to stay.
“When players start to decide something else, it’s because they need something different in their futures. And that happens with any club that has financial power to convince anybody, or has other capacities.
“Sometimes it’s not the financial power, sometimes it’s sporting reasons, sometimes family reasons, sometimes it’s a problem of adaptation. There are many different cases.”