Mikel Arteta reveals Nicolas Pepe is ‘hurting and suffering’ following poor run of form… but Arsenal manager insists he would ‘always defend his players’ despite going eight games without a win domestically
- Nicolas Pepe is Arsenal’s club-record signing at £72m, signed from Lille in 2019
- But the winger has struggled for form since arriving at the club last year
- Pepe failed to make an impact from the bench in Tuesday’s loss to Man City
- Yet Gunners boss Mikel Arteta defended his player and said he’s ‘trying his best’
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insists Nicolas Pepe is ‘hurting and suffering’ after a poor run of form personally as the Gunners’ winless streak continues.
Arteta’s side were knocked out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night as holders Manchester City dominated in a 4-1 win at the Emirates.
Excluding the Europa League, the Gunners have now gone eight matches without a win and record-signing Pepe has also struggled to find his best form – but Arteta revealed the Ivory Coast winger is all-too aware of the standard of his displays.
Nicolas Pepe has struggled for form and Mikel Arteta insists he is ‘hurting and struggling’
Arteta was again a frustrated onlooker as the Gunners were dumped out of the Carabao Cup
‘I would always defend my players,’ said Arteta.
‘Whatever I have to discuss with him, it will be internally. Pepe wants to do his best and help as much as he possibly can.
‘This is what I am interested in. It is my job and if he doesn’t, it is my fault. He is trying his best. We all know Nico and sometimes his body language makes him feel bad.’
Pepe was heavily criticised for a head-butt which resulted in a red card in a goalless draw at Leeds on November 22 and has failed to deliver since his return from a three-match ban.
Pepe was sent-off for a needless head-butt in the draw against Leeds United on November 22
The Ivory Coast winger did score a penalty on Saturday but still struggled from open-play
Though he scored the equalising penalty in Saturday’s loss at Everton, the £72m man – signed from Lille last year – was heavily criticised in some quarters for his lack of creativity in the second-half and he also did not make an impact coming on as a substitute in Tuesday’s defeat to City.
‘He is hurting, he is suffering – believe me, I am close to him – and he is trying his best,’ Arteta added.
‘He feels the responsibility because be knows why the club brought him here and he wants to deliver that.’
Arteta badly needs a result, with his side 15th in the table just four points above the relegation-zone, and they entertain London rivals Chelsea on Boxing Day.
Arteta slumped to defeat against Pep Guardiola and admitted his side need to ‘turn it around’
‘We have to turn it around, there is no question,’ the Arsenal boss admitted after the loss to City.
‘If we don’t, we are in big trouble, so that (next run of games) is the moment which is going to decide our season.
‘I am focused on the fighters that we have (in the squad), the spirit which we showed tonight again going against a really difficult opponent and the way we tried. On the basis of what we showed tonight, I have fighters in my team.’