Mikel Arteta bluntly defends decision to bench Nicolas Pepe at Everton

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta shuts down questions over decision to bench £72m signing Nicolas Pepe again after bringing on Eddie Nketiah in 2-1 defeat to Everton

  • Arsenal slipped to a last minute defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on Monday
  • Brazilian winger Gabriel Martinelli pulled up with an injury in the 71st minute
  • Gunners boss Mikel Arteta decided to bring Eddie Nketiah on over Nicolas Pepe
  • The club-record signing has only played five minutes in last seven league games

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta gave a blunt response when questioned over Nicolas Pepe’s lack of game time as he shut down questions over his decision to play Eddie Nketiah against Everton ahead of the club-record signing. 

The Gunners suffered their third consecutive away defeat on Monday night after they threw away a first-half lead at Goodison Park.

Martin Odegaard opened the scoring before the break but Richarlison’s second-half header levelled for the Toffees before Demarai Gray’s 92nd-minute winner snatched all three points for the under-fire home side. 

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta defended his decision to play Eddie Nketiah (L) over Nicolas Pepe (R)

Arteta surprisingly favoured Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette in the starting XI over captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and club-record signing Pepe. 

The Gunners boss was forced to make a substitution when Martinelli pulled up with an injury in the 71st minute but controversially Arteta decided to bring Nketiah off the bench instead of the more senior members of his squad.

The 22-year-old, who is expected to leave the Emirates on free transfer in summer, missed a great chance to put Arsenal back ahead but his header hit the woodwork from a yard out. 

Brazilian winger Gabriel Martinelli pulled up with an injury in the 71st minute against Everton

Arteta’s decision was met with fury from Arsenal fans who believed Pepe, who has only played five minutes in the last seven Premier League games, or skipper Aubameyang would have buried the chance. 

But when quizzed over £72million-signing Pepe’s lack of minutes, Arteta defended his choice.  

‘Because I decided to play Eddie today, to bring him on,’ he said, via Metro.

The substitute missed a chance to put Arsenal back in front but his header hit the post 

‘He created three chances and hit the post in the space of 25 minutes I think.’

When probed further on the decision to pick Nketiah over Pepe, Arteta responded: ‘He does everything in training what you saw him do in 25 minutes here. 

‘Every single day. That’s why I picked him.’

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