Pepe ‘unhappy’ at Arsenal but sends Arteta message after Ozil warning
Nicolas Pepe responded to Mikel Arteta in the perfect way with a goal in Arsenal's 3-0 win over Molde in the Europa League.
Arsenal's £72million winger Pepe has been under the spotlight this week after he was sent off early into the second half of the Gunners' 0-0 draw with Leeds.
Pepe was given his marching orders for headbutting Ezgjan Alioski, and Arteta was furious with the forward, labelling his actions "unacceptable."
The sending off came at a particularly bad time for Pepe, who recently admitted he is unhappy with the lack of game time he has been getting at Arsenal.
Pepe told Canal Plus: "My goal is to play more. Have a little more playing time.
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"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.
"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."
Pepe's sending off also followed a warning from Martin Keown, who said the forward is in danger of going the way of Mesut Ozil unless his form improves.
Keown told BT Sport: "These are the moments from Pepe that we were expecting when he first arrived. We haven't seen enough from this player, and it is, how can you get the best?
"We've all talked about Ozil not being around and the manager saying he failed the player. What about Pepe now? We're moving onto the next generation.
"How do you get the best from him, and is he getting the best from himself?
"We saw that little bit of magic there, he's creative, he's got the technique, but its about bringing those out in key moments for Arsenal."
Speculation Pepe could be frozen out at Arsenal emerged shortly after the sending off but Arteta, despite admitting his frustration in the Gunners' record purchase, confirmed he still has a future in north London.
"I will give Nico my full support all the time," said Arteta.
"He knows the things he has to improve. I have a lot of responsibility to get the best out of him… I cannot fault at all his effort."
Arteta added that Pepe apologised to him privately.
Gunners manager Arteta made the bold decision to play Pepe in his side's Europa League clash with Molde this Thursday.
All eyes were on the forward, who is suspended in the Premier League, to put on a performance to ease the speculation surrounding him.
And Pepe did exactly that by opening the scoring for Arsenal, who cruised to victory and progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Pepe's performance also caught the eye of Keown, who has, aforementioned, been slightly critical of the forward.
The former Gunners centre-back said on BT Sport: "I know they're not playing one of the superpowers of world football but nonetheless you can only beat what's in front of you.
"Tonight, Arsenal really wore them down, certainly in the second half. Pepe, he had a few misses in the first half then he got his range in.
"It sort of typifies how Arsenal want to attack in wide positions.
"It's about Pepe finding the end finish with the cross or getting on the end of his left foot where he likes to come inside and pull the trigger.
"It seemed in the first-half it wasn't quite right for him but early in the second half he hit the bar, and you thought, if you can get him in a higher position, a more dangerous position, he can be more effective, as he showed."
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