Thursday, April 25, 2024

Freddie explains Pepe decision after Norwich draw

With Arsenal in need of a goal during the second half of yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Norwich, it was somewhat surprising that Freddie Ljungberg didn’t turn to Nicolas Pepe.

The interim head coach did introduce Bukayo Saka in the 78th minute, and Gabriel Martinelli very late on, but the £72m summer arrival from Lille remained unused by the end.

It led to a question after the game as to why the record signing had not played any part, to which Ljungberg replied, “Pepe is a very good player. Like I said, I try to look at what players have done in training and that’s how I judge them.”

It’s an interesting answer, and one that will surely raise further questions about the Ivorian’s slow start to life in North London.

Perhaps the frustration felt with Unai Emery meant it was easy to point the finger at him for not using the winger, but if Freddie is also raising some doubts, perhaps there are issues behind the scenes we’re not aware of.

Pepe has played 785 of a potential 1260 Premier League minutes so far this season, some of which can be put down to his late arrival, and a summer in which he didn’t have a proper pre-season.

But it’s December now, so fitness issues should be a consideration, and he’s played just 58 minutes in total of our last four league games. He was also left on the bench for the duration of our 2-1 Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last week.

It does suggest there’s work to do, both on the player’s side and the club in order to figure out how to get the best out a player that cost so much money, but for now it remains an unhappy time all concerned.

Check out today’s Arseblog on the Norwich game: Norwich 2-2 Arsenal: Some positive signs, but many questions too

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Der Kaiser

Seems strange!


It really does. Not sure I want who trains best on the field as that leads to Ozil never getting a game and Xhaka getting too many. Pepe is a class act and we needed something yesterday. Freddie made a bad call bringing on Saka. Not fair on the young lad to be expected to produce in that pressurised environment.


Freddie came across as promoting his own agenda. Starting William a former under 23 ahead of Torreira and you could see in the malfunction midfield the difference Torreira made. Then bringing on Saka another under 23 graduate ahead of Pepe or Martineli felt like someone was trying to promote his own agenda… Let’s hey back to winning ways then you can start blending them in that’s priority

Dave M

I hope Willock continues to start (he needs lots of opportunity to play and make some mistakes – he could be a huge part of our future) – just not at the expense of Torreira, who absolutely should be given a run at the base of midfield. It should be at the expense of Xhaka. Embarrassing that he continues to play after 2.5 years of rank averageness and acting like a spoiled little brat.

The fact that Xhaka starts, while Torreira, Pepe, and Tierny watch from the bench just sums up our club in a nutshell really.


Do you think that a midfield trio of Torreira, Willock and Guendouzi are at top4 level in the PL?
I like all of them but with their level of physicality/experience and average age of 21 years – I have serious doubts.

Dave M

“Do you think that a midfield trio of Torreira, Willock and Guendouzi are at top4 level in the PL?”
Maybe, maybe not? It’s hard to tell isn’t it because there is ZERO data on it. But one thing I am sure of is Xhaka is not a top 4 midfielder and neither are midfields based around him anchoring them. 2.5years of Xhaka is A LOT of data on that! Why should we keep wasting time trying to fit Xhaka (a square peg) into an English Premier League midfield (round hole).


Xhaka will always be Xhaka, but he did put in more efforts than Willock yesterday (especially when it comes to tracking back). Having said that, Xhaka also failed to track back more urgently and allowed that easy second goal. Inept display by him on that occasion.


I’m not a fan on Xhaka but he was the most effective out of the midfield 3 yesterday. The other two seemed busy but ineffective and were not open enough to receive or deliver passes.

Dave M

And yet Xhaka was our DM and we were torn to shreds and exposed numerous times on the break, yet you’d rather blame our 20 y.o. CMs and AMs? Absolutely they didn’t have great games, but this was classic Xhaka – Mediocrity in a nutshell.


I thing the reality of the situation is that our midfield is pretty average and unbalanced. All our midfield players have serious limitations yet their qualities don’t compliment each other. Guendouzi decent at driving forward. Pretty horrid at reading dangerous situations and always caught 2-3 seconds behind play when defending. Xhaka is Xhaka. Good range of passing but has the mobility of an oil tanker. Gives silly fouls away when trying to make up for his lack of mobility Torriera very good defensive positioning. Doesn’t have a good touch when receiving the ball under pressure. Very bad at transitioning the… Read more »

Dave M

I agree with that assessment, which is why I think we should lean towards using the Torreira-Douzi-Willock option. They have the most potential and they are no more flawed that others…Why not cultivate the guys with potential?


Maybe we are showcasing these players because we want to sell them, to recoup pepe’s cost?




My bad my silly autocorrect changed Wilock to William

Thierry Walcott

Did it change Willock to Wilock too?


Many grammar nazis here Bolaji, don’t mind them… They knew what you meant.

Frank Bascombe

Hmm, he gets a squeeze but not the players eh?


Haha it’s the Online world that’s how they catch their fun Isn’t it.. I see the funny side of it

Frank Bascombe

Who’s William?


I thought Saka could have contributed more than he did being a fresh leg, but he more or less did nothing. Martineli put in a huge effort when he came in. That’s what fresh legs/subs are supposed to do.


his own agenda? what do you mean by agenda? his own style? experience? tactics? because freddie has been working with saka longer than he has been working with the rest of the squad(minus willock and martinez) he has been tasked with changing things up and has be asked to put the arsenal back into our team. why the fuck would you say something so obviously negative about something that is so overtly positive/whats been begged for for the last few months? dont get me wrong, i think he made a mistake bringing on saka on the lw instead of martinelli.… Read more »


Maybe agenda isn’t the right word. But i felt that he’s overestimating some of our youngsters. They are all extremely talented but I don’t think they should be trusted in this extremely pressurized environment now. Saka looks less confident now compared to since he started becoming a regular in the first team.

I am not cussing them or FL but maybe he should take them out of the spot light till things are stabilized.

Samir Gelb

Pepe’s confidence won’t have been helped by Emery droppoing him after he had started scoring, but perhaps he will respond well to this public challenge. Hopefully he kicks on and adjusts to life in London better.


Classic Emery.

Dr Hubab

Still blaming Emery? Hahaha give it a rest!

He has been a massive dud so far and that’s down to him.


“Still”? Amigo, it’s only been 4 days. Yes everything going on right now is still a result of Emery’s term.

We don’t know anything clear about Pepe’s part in this, but given the malaise over the entire team and most of the players over the last 6 months, I’d not be too quick to blame the players.. It’s just not possible to be coincidence they’re all in shit form at the same time.


Yes, there seems to be something wrong with the way we train, and this since at least 10 years. I cant put my finger on it though.


Naah it isn’t just down to him. It’s Emery’s playing style and man management that hasn’t helped. It seemed to me like he was starting to slowly show signs of improvement and then suddenly he’s out of the team. Not cussing Saka but what has Saka shown that justifies him being ahead of Pepe and even Martinelli in the team?


He needs to work on his fitness. It might help in forcing the Boss to bring him on (at least as a sub). For him to be there and Saka who’s not really known for his physical play to be picked ahead of him tells a lot. What came to my mind after that was a probable “complacency” on his part.


Started scoring? Lol 2 goals on free kicks. That’s it. Nothing else. He’s lazy and slow with the ball. When he has space and ready to take a shot it it nice? Yes but not often to cover for his poor form. He needs to wait his turn


If he’s not pulling his weight in training then his omission is justified.

The bigger issue is out defence and supposed defensive midfield, what a fucking shit show.

Dave M

The guy is settling into a new culture, language and a new life in another country at a team that is playing like turds, maybe that could be a part of communication/training issues. You really think isolating him further is going to help this situation play out? We are just crushing his confidence and him as a player. If you could add an example to the definition of poor player management – the current Pepe example (along with a few others at Arsenal) would be a fitting addition.


So is Martineli who is much younger than him but obviously more determined rather than just depending on skills alone. Skills set are much more effective with fitter body and sound mind willing to put in the effort needed. Ask Mane, Salah and co. Skills only doesn’t do it. If he’s allowed to get away with it, complacency will set in not only on him, but it will affect other players as well. I think only Messi can be afforded such leisure now that he’s much older than he used to be.

Dave M

You sum up the problems at Arsenal perfectly. Players are different. You need to manage them differently. Clearly Pepe (not his fault he cost that much) is under huge pressure and needs help settling. We couldn’t be making that worse for him right now. Arsenal does not understand player management. And we haven’t for a long long time.


With sight of Dave M’s comments above and below… Martinelli cost nothing, has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and is at that balls-to-the-wall fearless age. Pepe carries the tag of ‘most expensive player ever’ and was brought in under some misguided ‘saviour’ goal/assists-machine banner. Martinelli has Edu to mentor him in his own language and cultural context. Pepe came in under a manager who was utterly clueless, couldn’t communicate, with fans in revolt, a ‘captain’ being booed by – and then abusing – his own stadium… and in the midst of this is trying to learn a new… Read more »


This poor bloke came into the club at the worst possible time. It feels like he joined when the ship was already sinking and, with no experience in the League and after moving to a new country, was expected to help keep afloat. Mammoth task for a kid just starting his career.

I really feel like he would have done much better had he joined when Wenger was still around. He’s still young and can prove a lot under the new manager. Let’s hope he’s back to his best!


He’s 24, had played nearly 200 league games with about 20 caps for his country before the move. Hardly a kid just starting out in a footballers life cycle.


True but I remember reading that he started his footballing education rather late and through an unconventional route. Some people just adapt better to being on the big stage.


I agree players adapt at different speeds. Isn’t that the job of Raul to have an idea of a players background. Hedge a bet? 72m invested in him. You don’t invest that type of money into a player for him to take a full season to adapt. I know it’s only 13 games in but he hasn’t shown any good signs in the league.


Isn’t Pepe fault regarding the price tag though.

I hope freddie will be able to get him playing well. One thing that will easily help is faster transitions from our backline. Under Emery, Pepe had to drop deep to get the ball and then had 2-3 players already marking him.


Sometimes it takes foreign players time to settle in the rigours of the PL which is much faster and with a far greater intensity than they’re used to. Even Thierry took a while to settle and be converted from winger to striker. As far as Pepe is concerned, I’m not sure he’s up to the task although I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.

Thierry Bergkamp

Pepe has been poor. I don’t get why people act like he deserves to play over others, or he’s going to be our saviour

Crash Fistfight

Saka has not played well for the last month or two and is still very young. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think Pepe might have a greater impact in games at this point. It’s more understandable to see Martinelli play ahead of Pepe, but I still feel like now is not the best time to be chucking these youngsters into the team. There’s too much pressure on them and too many other players not playing well to offset anything they do wrong.


Crash Fistfight I can’t agree with you more. You nailed it. In spite of whatever deficiencies he might have right now, he should at least be playing ahead of Saka (from what I can see on the field from Saka recently). It’s a bit puzzling to observe that. Doesn’t make a hell of sense to me.


Exactly. Saka has had 1.5 good games and they weren’t in the prem. I am not criticizing Saka but it’s clear that his body isn’t ready for the physicality of the prem. It’s nothing to do with talent or mentality which are both very promising.

I much rather see us try to blood Martinelli or get Pepe back to form right now.


You need to let him pay himself into form. See Hazard at Real. New country, new league, new language, new team. It’s hard. Benching and publicly knocking his confidence doesn’t help. We may never see returns on this asset if we continue handling him this poorly.


@ BuckNasty True


You are comparing hazard with Pepe? Hazard already admitted he came into the season out of shape for some reason. You knew what you would get with inform hazard. We have no idea with Pepe. He can become great or bust out or most likely inbetween. A player going to his first big club comes in out of form? Great


I think its safe to say that had Emery made the same team selection and substitutions the Arseblog server would have gone into meltdown. Some really odd decisions, hopefully they were forced upon him but this was another opportunity against weaker opposition that has been wasted.
Obviously very early days for Freddy and there were some encouraging signs but personally i would like to see him braver with his team selection, we are pretty much at a stage where he has very little to lose and everything to gain.


Not sure I entirely agree. There were clear signs of improvement, especially in our attacking play. We created more chances and seemed more confident going forward. Defensively we are a shambles though, and I think that has been the case for almost a decade. We need a revamp back there for sure.

Dr Hubab

It was Norwich City…..and we were lucky to escape with a draw.

They have the worst shots conceded in the league. Creating a handful of half chances is a pretty low bar for improvement.

I thought we were told that it was Emery shackling this team and nothing to do with how piss poor the players are?!

Ya gooner

We have to remember Freddie has been in charge 2 days with only one training session. He likely stuck to the same game plan emery would have used as to not confuse the players too much. Let’s give him at least 2 months to see what direction the team flows in and whether we move to a more attacking based football style.


This is exactly what Freddie said going into the match, and it makes complete sense. It would help if read up the previous posts on what Freddie said, and take maybe 15 seconds to consider the situation before losing their shit over Freddie. It’s not that hard if we only try. He’s a straight talker, so it’s not difficult at all to understand what he’s saying. It’s fucking ridiculous to just dive right in at him. If Pepe is in down form – be it from his own devices or the wounds left by Emery’s circus clown team sheet methods… Read more »


*2nd paragraph: it would help if *PEOPLE WOULD* read up..


What we have to keep in mind is that Norwich are 19th in the league and in many ways our performance was similar to the Watford one. So it probably wasn’t an improvement at all, though I wouldn’t expect anything dramatic to change in 48 hours!


It’s not like those young players contribute much defensively? They will serve much better as sub’s/fresh legs with particular instructions to carry out for the team.


ST. macca, I agree fully. To me Freddie is not up to the task, lineup and subs were underwhelming and we don’t have time to give him as every point is crucial now.


3 days and people are so sure of themselves.


Very worrying! He has come into Arsenal in a very difficult situation, and with a price tag and expectation that can weigh you down. But if he’s not doing it in training, he shouldn’t be playing (nor should anyone else!). Hopefully he can kick on and show his quality for us, otherwise questions will be asked over how our largest ever transfer was sanctioned.

Michael A Oloyede

I’m very disappointed and it’s very clear that some of Emery’s mistakes came Freddie they imposed a lot of players on him Emery couldn’t take decisions on his own Pepe played very well against Liverpool and scored two goals in erupa game why would a good coach bench a player showing so much prospect and Freddie doesn’t look to me like the messiah we need a Rogger kind of coach is all we need. Saka is not ready for the responsibility put on him and our defense is not just good at ALL


The transfer was sanctioned because the fans threw their toys out of their prams.
Anyone with real nous would have spent the money on a proper defender or combative Midfielder.


no, sharpa, emery was asking for a proper winger and we got one of the best hot wingers in the world. then he chose to throw him under the bus and not play him even after he saved his a** with those two FKs.

I am quite sure not using such an asset is not smart. Freddie is already trying to be too smart, using Saka ahead of a mature player. If there are disciplinary issues then say so and don’t put him on the bench at all.


Saka is simply not ready for that kind of burden. It may overwhelm him.


I think this is a case where hindsight is 20/20. Yes we needed a top CB and DM (as we have done for the last decade!) but a top wide forward was high on most people’s lists too. At the time we thought our only viable wide options were Iwobi and Mhkytarian. It’s only because of the savvy purchase of Martinelli and the emergence of Saka (and to a lesser extent Nelson) that the Pepe looks a bit unnecessary. Also don’t forget that we only bought in Luiz due to Kosc’s decision to quit the club, could have been planned… Read more »

Tanzanian Gooner

Hey blogs (off topic), the app crashes most of time whenever I’m trying to load new articles or blogs. I don’t know if it’s my phone (Nokia 6 with latest android update) or the app itself is the problem. Also if it’s possible, I politely ask for the return of “in-app comment section” (like in the previous app layout) when new updates come out. Otherwise, I am grateful for what you do, keep up the good work.

Ya gooner

Crashes on my galaxy s6 also sometimes. Clicking reopen fixes this though


I loved Arsene but he would play players on reputation rather than performance and that is maybe where the complacency set in. We need to have a more competitive atmosphere around the club in general and that includes knowing you are not a guaranteed starter if you don’t work hard enough.

Ex-Priest Tobin

Pepe is the most talented player we have and must start. Only one game in and I already want Ljungberg out. Hopefully the hierarchy don’t give this no-experience no-hoper too long to prove himself. LJUNGBERG OUT!


I agree. I was excited about Freddie but seeing he put willock (or xhaka) ahead of torreira and no pepe the whole match, I lost all faith in him as we don’t have time for him to tinker and be conservative. We had a lot of that til now.

And Mustafi back, wtf is that??


Haha – very funny!


Hopefully he finds his feet soon, and we haven’t just signed Gervinho mk2 just with a better haircut. There must be issues behind the scenes, when he couldn’t even get minutes in recent league cup or Europa league games. On the plus side Martinelli’s value has increased by at least 600%, even if Pepe’s value has probably decreased by half. Last summer was on Raul, surely he’ll be thinking of a manager who can get the best out of Pepe in an attempt to repair his reputation, If we can’t get Poch? I’m reluctantly coming around to the idea of… Read more »

Venga Bus

There’s a lethargy right through this team……I seriously don’t think they “give it”, like say up at the Mugmashers place.
It’s like we operate at about 65%capacity.
Sometimes it’s up at 100%, but it’s just not consistent.
Big one for any manager to change that culture……. but if it’s ever achieved , we have a very good squad to kick on.
I mean look at Liverpool midfield for example…… not the most skilful, but seriously engaged for the ninety minutes.


@ Venga that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to sound out. We need a Klopp like coach who can maximize the abilities of this set of players, and the closest to such currently in the premier league is Rodgers and perhaps NES. Not the most popular but we are not doing a popularity contest in Arsenal. What we is a coach that can blend these boys and make them work like a unit. Hope Sanllehi knows what he’s doing this time.

rav singh

We’ve got a home game coming up. Hopefully Pepe can start that game and make an impact. Let’s give Freddie some time. Per’s on board too to give some assistance with the defending issues we’re having!


if we are already asking Freddie decision on why putting Saka on instead of the obvious Pepe, then we are in trouble. It was obvious that Pepe was required. I can only sigh and hope that we dont go through another circle we did with Unai


I think the acting head coach need to understand that Pepe is world class player not Saka we know Pepe more than Him, we need Pepe his qualities led to his being in our club not formality, our draw is from the coach he would have bring in Pepe not Sako


In another quote Freddie actually said it was beyhe thouy norwich were pressuring them and he thought saka would defend but also use his pace in attack. An answer far more focused on a situational solution rather than sounding like Pepe doesn’t train well.

Bryan Clayden

What’s the best thing about having a legend in charge? He can call upon other Arsenal greats to kick these sorry a** players backsides! This is what i would of been doing in the first training session if i was Freddie, I’d have keown and Adams come in and show these players what fkin playing for arsenal means! Who honestly in this squad actually knows what bloody playing for THE ARSENAL means!! a 3 time premier league winner and one of thd smartest men in world football killed himself daily to make Arsenal great and wore the Arsenal crest instead… Read more »


Hope that the pepe deal was something we really wanted to do and not something Jorge Mendes pushed down our throats


He will only do that pushing if his buddy Sanllehi actually allows him to. He’s not God nor the devil. If Sanllehi removes sentiments and negotiate like he’s having Arsenal interest at heart, he can deal with him. There are many Mendes in all kinds of different franchise all over the world and people still professionally handles and deals with them without coming off worst for it.


Seems Pepe has become the scapegoat of the previous and now current manager. A young player moves to a new club, new city, new country, new culture and a whopping price tag. Every pundit on TV questions why he was even bought. No wonder the kid is feeling a bit weird. Also, why do the people in charge find it necessary to hang him out to dry by telling reporters that he’s not settling or he’s not training well? All Freddie had to say was “I thought it was the right decision to go with the substitutions I made. There… Read more »


It makes no sense whatsoever. He’s played no worse than the rest of the team, he’s the only player who can naturally carry the ball and beat players and it seemed as if he was just about to come good before he was dropped.

Fart Overjars

speaking of pepe, we need to spend spend spend in January.


No matter what personnel decisions are made by Ljungberg there will always be issues somewhere on the pitch as there are so many holes in the lineup. Definitely hope Pepe gets back on the field soon as they only way he is going to get used to the PL is to play. I don’t think we are ready to have Ozil, Laca, Aubameyang and Pepe all start together (as there is just not enough strength defensively behind them), but Pepe needs to be in the rotation soon. I don’t know what business we plan to do in the January window,… Read more »


You built a 300 word post out of “I try to look at what players have done in training and that’s how I judge them.” There’s an art to this I see.


Anyone given a thought to how Pepe’s transfer/contract is constructed? I have zero idea but maybe there is an ‘appearances’ clause in it. It rings a bell with the Ox when he was restricted playtime partly due to that same reason. Pardon me if I’m just wrong or way off!

SLC Gooner

The problem with Pepe is that we can’t really play all of Pepe, Laca and Auba at the same time. Especially not with Ozil. The midfield isn’t creative enough without Ozil in there(it’s not great even with him). And with all 4 of them, we’re very unbalanced to attack, particularly with Willock and Guend too. Maybe you could get away with those 4 attackers if you had Torreira and Chambers in to shield the defense. But you’d still have a linkage problem. Assuming Auba is undroppable for important matches, and that we need Ozil creativity in the mid, we can… Read more »


If Freddie doesn’t think Pepe is the right option at the minute I think we should take his word for it. He knows exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, and he does have more experience than most of what it takes to play on the wing.


how poor, trying to play big guy at the expense of a freshman…. started with ruining relationship from day one…


Some people seem surprise. Frankly I said it before, 72m may wow some fans but could also make a player ‘less hungry’. We had plenty of other more frugal options in market which could have left us some extra to play for a proper Cback replacement/addition other than sideshowbob or extending and over the hill Koscielny. Ziyech or Fekir would have been more than good enough and potentially more effective. Pepe to me has enough opportunity in training and over 14 odd games to show what he can do. and it has been sporadic at best. Too many here mkore… Read more »


Harsh, but fair.

Damn … I’m starting to agree with Santori.
What on earth is going on around here.


I do wonder, how is Pepe’s English.

Some part of me thinks there’s still a communication issue with him, which is why he’s not getting selected a lot.

james kiernan

chambers is a good player but lacks pace needed at this level.


This is just to much hand wringing and nonsense. FL’s excuse for not playing Pepe is idiotic. Noone spends 70M on a player, a player with a rich history of excellence, bags and bags of goals, more skill taking a man on then anyone on the squad currently, pace and a mean shot, along with a bunch of his national team caps, and who’s only been with the club a short time – but then yammers on about “training” … then picks an 18 year old instead. This is favoritism, bias – call it whatever you want. Sure, FL had… Read more »


In transfers, and in whole, i get the impression that Arsenal is liken to a “nice person”. This means that there are misused and abused by those “bullies” who cant attack another bully. This means that the “bullies” line up to take advantage of Arsenal, the “nice guy”, just like in the school yard. Arsenal needs to “grow a pair” and punch one of these “bullies” out. Then the other “bullies” will retreat. This is how we have been sold over the years some “duds”. I’m hoping that it is that Pepe has not yet acclimitised to the cold and… Read more »


So what you are saying is that Emery was not to blame which was obvious if you actually start looking at Arsenal players

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