The absence of Nicolas Pepe from the starting line-up against Man City on Wednesday raised some eyebrows, which were raised further again when he wasn’t even used as a substitute.
However, Mikel Arteta has revealed the club’s record signing has had some fitness issues of late, which played a part in his decision making.
He also made it clear he feels he can get the best out of the former Lille man, but has called on him to take responsibility for his performances.
Arteta was understanding of the challenges Pepe has faced since his big money move last summer, and sounded positive about what he can bring to the team, yet put the ball back in his court a little too.
“It’s clear that his consistency has not been at the level he can produce,” said the Arsenal boss.
“He’s the first to accept that. That’s what I’m going to demand of a player of his level and calibre.
“He has to be producing every three days at the level that he can be. He has to be a player that can make the difference, that is a threat, that generates fear in the opponent and gives us a big threat in the final third.
“His work rate has to be related as well with that kind of performance. He knows that. He’s such a nice kid. He’s trying really hard. You have to accept as well, the timing and the way he has adapted for the first year.
“A lot has happened for him and we have to understand that. He’s willing and I’m sure we’re going to get the best out of that. I’m convinced of that.”
And with regards to what he needs to do to make progress, Arteta is looking for consistency in his end product, something he acknowledges is a challenge.
“It’s taking the flash moments into a consistent mode,” he continued. “That, for a creative wide player to do it, is a big task.
“Every detail has to be taken into account because it makes a huge difference. His mentality as well, his mindset has to all the time be like that; to win the game for the team.
“He’s one of the players in the squad that can do it and must take the responsibility.”
At Man City, Arteta worked a lot with players like Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, helping to improve and develop them, so hopefully he can do likewise with Pepe. The talent is clearly there.
At £72m, this is a transfer Arsenal can’t afford to see fail.