The Gunners’ boss has revealed why he utilised the Cote d’Ivoire international differently in Tuesday’s defeat of the Saints
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has disclosed why he decided to play Nicolas Pepe as a left-winger against Southampton.
The left-footed 25-year-old, who was signed from Lille for a club-record £72 million, has predominantly been used on the right-wing in his career.
Against the Saints on Tuesday, the Cote d’Ivoire international was swapped to the left while England international of Nigerian descent Bukayo Saka was redeployed to the right.
Nevertheless, Pepe – who made his first league start since December 19, 2020 – was among the goalscorers as the Gunners cruised to a comfortable 3-1 triumph against Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side at St Mary’s Stadium.
Speaking to the Arsenal website after the game, the former Manchester City assistant manager gave reasons for his tactical change.
“It was more because of what we wanted to do in attack and the spaces we wanted to exploit,” Arteta told the Arsenal website.
“We believed that he could exploit some spaces there and he could be really efficient in doing that.
“I thought that the other day he had a good game and was involved in our best attacking moments, and the way he’s been training he deserved his chance. Today [on Monday] he did the job really well.”
The former Lille star was cautioned by referee Kevin Friend in the 70th minute after departing the field too slowly prior to an Arsenal substitution. However, the Ivorian stayed on due to injury to Emile Smith Rowe.
“Well we were going to take Nico off and bring Gabi on but Emile got injured, so we had to change straight away,” he continued.
“We didn’t want to use that substitution because then we’d have to make two. The referee believed that we were wasting time or something and he made a call.”
After putting up an impressive performance, Pepe – who now boasts of three goals in 13 league appearances – was replaced by Joseph Willock in the 90th minute.
Thanks to this result, Arsenal climbed to eight on the English top-flight log after garnering 30 points from 20 games. They will be full of confidence against Manchester United in their upcoming Premier League match.