Frustrated Nicolas Pepe hits out at boss Mikel Arteta over his lack of playing time – as Arsenal’s record signing suggests he’s unhappy at the club and is trying to ‘find a smile again’
Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has taken a swipe at Mikel Arteta by claiming he has not been able to produce his best football due to a lack of minutes this season.
The club’s record £72million signing has started just one Premier League fixture this season in the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, and instead has been a more permanent fixture in cup competitions.
The Ivory Coast international featured in both of Arsenal’s Carabao Cup victories at Leicester and Liverpool and has impressed with two goals and two assists in the Europa League group stages so far.
Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe (R) has taken a swipe at Mikel Arteta (L) over his lack of minutes
Pepe has had an indifferent time at the Gunners since joining the club from Lille last year
And he has struggled for regular game time in the Premier League this season under Arteta
But despite the 25-year-old’s good return in those competitions, he has suggested he is unhappy at Arsenal and is currently playing without a smile on his face.
‘My goal is to play more. Have a little more playing time,’ Pepe told French outlet Canal Plus.
‘A player who plays is happy. For me, I would like to play a little more to find a smile again.
‘He [Arteta] wants me to be 100 per cent focused during the 90 minutes of the match. Afterwards, I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend.
The Ivorian’s started just one Premier League game this term, which came in loss at Man City
He’s impressed in cup competitions netting against Dundalk and Molde (above) in Europe
‘But the coach speaks to me, he also has assistants who are there for that. But it is frustrating for any player to be on the bench.
‘A super-sub role? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him that I don’t have that role.’
Pepe has had a mixed Arsenal career since joining the club from Ligue 1 outfit Lille in the summer of 2019.
But now he says he wants to be playing with a smile on his face again by starting more games
But despite his highly anticipated arrival he managed just eight goals and 10 assists in his first season as the Gunners went on to lift the FA Cup.
This term, his only league goal came in Arsenal’s 2-1 win at home to Sheffield United.
Pepe has now joined up with Ivory Coast for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Madagascar on Thursday and next Tuesday.
Pepe’s only Premier League goal this season came in the victory against Sheffield United