Premier League • England

Ian Wright floats positional change to save career of Arsenal star Arteta doesn’t rate

Ian Wright

Ian Wright has suggested that Nicolas Pepe could play in a new position to give him a final chance of making a name for himself at Arsenal.

The Gunners made headlines in the summer of 2019 when making the winger their record signing from Lille for £72million. While he has played 101 games for Arsenal so far, he has had mixed fortunes.

Pepe signed under Unai Emery’s reign and was therefore a regular feature until the manager got the sack in December 2019.

Mikel Arteta then kept him as a regular feature in the team until the end of that season. Last term, Pepe featured in 35 of 38 Premier League matchday squads but only started 16 games and has mostly remained on the bench this campaign.

Indeed, he has not been able to get regular game time despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang becoming frozen out and now leaving.

According to Gunners legend Wright, Ivory Coast international Pepe must replicate his Africa Cup of Nations form. While there, netted two goals and got an assist.

However, the pundit also stressed that a change in position may help the winger.

“Up to this point he’s not used Pepe in any way that makes me think he’s [Arteta] got love for Pepe,” Wright told his Wrighty’s House podcast.

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“I think Pepe might be in a last chance saloon, with the amount of games he hasn’t played.

“I’d like to see something from him. When you watch him in the Africa Cup of Nations, where I think the defender is even harder with those guys, with how athletic, how good and how intelligent they are.

“You’ve got to do a lot more, and when you watch him, he’s done it Why aren’t we getting that out of him?

“If that means playing him in a False 9, or playing him in a position where he’s just free and gets on the ball and runs at people.”

Instead, Arteta favours Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette as attacking options.

Nicolas Pepe could leave in Arsenal reshuffle

Nicolas Pepe celebrates scoring for Arsenal

Pepe’s contract expires in 2024, so Arsenal will soon face a decision over his future.

Before then, though, the Gunners are planning an immediate reshuffle of their attacking options.

Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah will, as it stands, follow Aubameyang out of the door in the summer. Indeed, the pair’s contracts are expiring and they have yet to extend.

As such, Arsenal are looking for reinforcements.

They tried and failed to sign Dusan Vlahovic in January, the ex-Fiorentina striker joining Juventus instead.

As for the summer window, Espanyol striker Raul de Tomas is on their radar.