Arsenal legend Ian Wright has urged Mikel Arteta to give Nicolas Pepe an opportunity as a false nine in the coming months.
The Gunners lost Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January while Folarin Balogun was sent out on loan. That leaves Arteta with just Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, who have both struggled for goals in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal are reliant on Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli for goals at the moment and they have done really well. However, all three of them are extremely young and a more experienced player has to step up soon.
Wright believes Pepe could be that player if he’s given an opportunity up front in the coming games.
Ian Wright wants Nicolas Pepe to play up front for Arsenal
The Arsenal legend said on the Wrighty’s House podcast: “I’d like to see something from him. When you watch him in the African Cup of Nations, I feel as though the defending is even harder with how athletic and how good they are and how intelligent they are. You have to do a lot more, and he’s done it.
“Why aren’t we getting that out of him? Play him as a false nine, play him in a role where he’s free and he can run at people.
“It seems to me that Mikel is doing something where he has to take a chance on that. Because I’m feeling that the goals are going to come from Emile Smith Rowe, Saka and hopefully Martinelli, and I’m not saying that any of them are proven like Aubameyang was, but we’re talking about someone who can frighten defenders and he can take half chances, we’ve seen that.”
Pepe as a striker makes sense at Arsenal, but we’re not sure if he can be a good false-nine.
The 26-year-old Ivorian’s strengths are running at the defenders or in behind them. A false nine’s role requires him to drop deep and link up play up, which is something he can do, but his biggest asset will be wasted.
As an out-and-out striker playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Pepe could prove to be brilliant for Arsenal. He is rapid, is one of the best dribblers in the country and his shooting is very good as well.
He should be an option for Arteta in the coming months after Aubameyang’s exit, but the Arsenal boss has never fully trusted Pepe, which is probably why he has never been given an opportunity there.
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