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Mikel Arteta explains decision to change Nicolas Pepe’s position in Arsenal win over Southampton


Nicolas Pepe scored his first goal from open play in the Premier League since October in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Southampton (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta hailed Nicolas Pepe’s performance against Southampton after Arsenal’s record signing starred in an unfamiliar role in Tuesday night’s win over Southampton.

The Ivory Coast international has struggled to find consistency over the course of an indifferent 18-month Arsenal career to date, with his place in the team jeopardised by the emergence of Bukayo Saka.

After a string of matchwining performances since switching to the right wing, Saka has essentially cemented the role that Pepe was bought to occupy when Arsenal paid Lille £72million the summer before last.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence for ‘personal matters’ opened up an opportunity for Pepe last night, however, and the 25-year-old seized the chance, operating on the opposite flank.

Pepe scored Arsenal’s equaliser – his first goal in open play in the Premier League since October – and was a constant menace throughout as the Gunners registered their fifth win in their last six games, climbing to within four points of the top four in the process.

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Explaining the decision to play Pepe on the left, Arteta said: It was more of what we wanted to do in attack and the spaces we wanted to exploit.

‘We believed we could exploit some spaces there and he could be really efficient to do that.

‘I think the other night he had a good game, he was involved in our best attacking moments and the way he had been training he deserved his chance and today he did his job really well.

‘He was really good again. He created big moments. He deserved his chance today and he took it.’


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