Nicolas Pepe opens up on mixed relationship with Mikel Arteta & Arsenal future

  • Nicolas Pepe has returned to Arsenal after his loan with Nice expired
  • He struggled to impress at the Emirates under Mikel Arteta
  • Ivory Coast international has 12 months left on his contract

Pepe has returned to Arsenal
Pepe has returned to Arsenal / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe has admitted his relationship with manager Mikel Arteta has not always been perfect, but praised the boss for his commitment to helping him become a better player.

Pepe joined Arsenal in the summer of 2019 for a club-record fee of £72m - a record which is set to be smashed by Declan Rice's imminent £105m move to the Emirates - but failed to make the impact expected of him.

The Ivory Coast international has 27 goals and 21 assists in 112 appearances for Arsenal, but 50 of those outings came as a substitute as Pepe struggled to command a permanent starting spot.

He was initially signed under Unai Emery but Pepe has spent the majority of his Arsenal career under Arteta, who joined the Gunners four months after his arrival, and reports have long suggested that the two did not see eye-to-eye.

While Pepe admits he has not always agreed with Arteta's decisions, he recently heaped praise on the Spaniard for his determination to bring the best out of him.

"People say that he identified me as a player that wasn’t up to the level in his team, in his philosophy. It’s completely false," Pepe explained on Colininterview.



"When he arrived, he had [Manchester] City’s philosophy. He had a squad that was filled with quality and backups in every position. When he spoke to me, he said he counted on me, he wanted me to do this or that, and you have to focus on that. He improved me in every way. He spoke to me the whole time, I watched videos with his assistants all the time. He really believed in me. He said I had incredible potential, so we need to extract that potential.

"At the end of the first season, he spoke with me and told me to do this or that. The second season comes along, I was a substitute. I was going mad. How could I be a substitute when he said he counted on me? Everything is spinning in your head. I was a substitute for [what felt like] 10 matches. It was at the time when they signed Willian. He is a number 10 or a winger. But he plays on the wing for like 11 or 12 matches in a row. My head turned, knowing that I had spoken with the coach and it wasn’t like that.

"But that improved in the sense that he gave me a chance, I scored against Sheffield United at the Emirates. The confidence started to come back. I started to speak better, but it was a bit cold. I started to speak to agents, but we didn’t see each other like before. But it improved. It’s not true that he labelled me. Not true at all.

"He helped me in every way, on a tactical level, in terms of game intelligence because his philosophy requires a lot of intelligence. He knew my style of play wasn’t waiting in possession, it was cutting inside, it wasn’t waiting out on the right. Before, I was a bit freer. I had to wait in my zone, and I wasn’t like that before. These are parts of my game that he tried to improve. He always wanted to help me with all of that."

With Pepe now back at Arsenal, a decision will have to be made about his future. The winger has just 12 months left on his contract and admitted he is not yet sure of his next move.

"I will return to Arsenal. I was loaned without an option to buy so I have to go back to Arsenal," he concluded. "I don’t know [about my future] yet.

"When I get back, I’ll speak with the coach and everyone and see what everyone’s ideas are and then we’ll make a decision."


On this week's edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Toby CudworthGraeme Bailey and Sean Walsh to discuss Mason Mount's impending move to Man Utd, Arsenal's various deals, Liverpool's pursuit of Dominik Szoboszlai and more!

If you can't see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!