Pepe, 26, became the Gunners’ record signing when he completed a £72million transfer from Lille in 2019 but his overall impact at the Emirates has been minor. He has made just five Premier League starts this season, scoring and assisting once, as Arteta appears to favour the likes of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli on the flanks.
However, the Ivory Coast international sent a timely reminder of his quality with a fine goal against World Cup-holders France last Friday and is poised to start against England in another friendly on Tuesday. Pepe clearly feels he has much to offer at club level and will take stock over his situation this summer, by which time he will have two years remaining on his contract.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “I am focused on how well we do until the end of the season and the club’s target, which is getting into the Champions League. Then we will see what happens.” Lifting the lid on his conversations with his manager, Pepe added: “When a team is winning it is hard for a coach to make changes.
“Mikel Arteta has explained that to me and the coach knows what I think and how hard I’m working. It is also about communication. Sometimes it’s not easy to communicate with the language barrier. It has been a tough season for me. Of course, it is frustrating not to play. No player enjoys not playing but I have to respect the coach’s decision and the team is doing well at the moment.
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“I have improved since coming to London and English football is totally different from French football, particularly the intensity in the matches and I had to adapt physically and make that transition which I feel I have done.” Pepe’s frustrations in North London are shared by Ivory Coast manager Patrice Beaumelle, who is desperate for him to start more often.
He said: “When I watch Nico on the bench it is painful for him as he loves to play and it is painful for me because I need my players on the pitch for club games. I would like him to play more as I am sure he can bring a lot of solutions. When you see what he brings to Ivory Coast, I would like to see him bring so much fun and joy and happiness and goals with the red jersey.”