Ian Wright urges Mikel Arteta to sanction positional change for struggling Nicolas Pépé
Arsenal striker icon Ian Wright remains one of the most passionate Gunners supporters around, so much so that he has once again turned to his personal platform to champion a possible change in north London at the possible behest of manager Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal icon Ian Wright urges Mikel Arteta to “take a chance” with Nicolas Pepe positionhttps://t.co/a5PgFfgWd1 pic.twitter.com/Y0avH5HKyR
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) February 5, 2022
The Gunners legend took to his podcast – Wrighty’s House – to urge Arteta to turn to Ivorian star Nicolas Pépé as a temporary solution in the number 9 role as Arsenal continues their push for an unexpected top-four finish come the end of the current 2021-22 Premier League campaign.
“Up to this point he’s (Arteta’s) not used Pepe in any way that makes me think he’s got love for Pepe. I think Pepe might be in a last chance saloon, with the number 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-nine or playing him in a position where he’s just free and gets on the ball and runs at people. It seems to me that Mikel has got to take a chance on that. None of them are proven like Aubameyang was proven.”
Striker headache at Arsenal worsens after January
While Ian Wright may have a fair point when it comes to Arsenal not doing what it takes to make it work regarding Nicolas Pépé, the reality is that Mikel Arteta never really had to.
For base value, Pépé was not even wanted by former manager Unai Emery who had a public desire for the Gunners to move for Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha. But despite that preference, former club director Raúl Sanllehi moved for the LOSC Lille winger and Pépé has never put together consistent performances across a whole season.
The truth is that Pépé was never suited to Emery tactically, and probably is not to Arteta either. A system under the Spaniard that demands effective and efficient pressing while an understanding of where chance creation comes from as well as an ability to possess play in a dominant way is hardly what made the Ivorian shine in France at Lille who was a far more direct side that attacked at pace.
Pépé’s ability on the ball could make him a prime candidate to feature in a false-nine role for Arsenal but his experience in that role at club level is limited at best.
With the loss of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang mixed with the reality that both Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah will be leaving London Colney in the summer, Arteta may well at least have to consider the possibility in the short-term before Arsenal scours the summer transfer window for their next long-term center-forward to highlight the on-going project in north London.