Sport Mikel Arteta: Nicolas Pepe must improve his Arsenal consistency
Arsenal team news: Expected 4-2-3-1 vs Liverpool as Saka and Luiz decisions made
Mikel Arteta and Arsenal will be aiming for a return to winning ways against Liverpool on Saturday evening.Bernd Leno will assume his usual position between the sticks for the Gunners on Saturday evening.
Mikel Arteta has warned Nicolas Pepe he has no more excuses now to justify his £72million price tag after an upturn in form for the Ivorian winger.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a good few weeks in north London, scoring in both of Arsenal's Europa League quarter-final legs over Slavia Prague and has started in eight out of the Gunners' last 12 league matches since the end of January.
Arteta admitted that Pepe has needed time to adjust to life at Arsenal but the Gunners boss admitted that the winger's recent form means he must now show the consistency required to stay as a regular star.
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Thomas Tuchel's honeymoon period at Chelsea is over, brutally ended by Sam Allardyce, while Mikel Arteta is under pressure again.Or, that's what the nostalgia of the Premier League wanted us to expect – the reality was rather different, as Arsenal's current status as Europa League-hopefuls at best was made brutally clear.
The Arsenal manager said before Sunday's visit of Fulham: 'Nico has this ability – it depends on him, we can help him as much as we want but he needs to have the right mindset and consistency to do what he can do.
'Because that is the level that we are going to ask of him, the level I am asking of him – if it is something below that he is not going to play but if he does what he can do he will have a big chance to play because he has got incredible ability.
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MARTIN KEOWN: Arteta must DROP Aubameyang and play Martinelli
MARTIN KEOWN: This was Mikel Arteta's 50th game in charge of Arsenal and it's hard to remember a worse performance. It's time to bring in 19-year-old Gabriel Martinelli - he's too good to be on the bench.This only makes Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Slavia Prague even bigger.
'He just needed to change his mindset. He needed a period of adaptation and that is gone now. So we cannot rely on adaptation again, now it is about performance and he can do it.
'He has got the players to support him, a manager that trusts him, he has got all the staff that are willing to help him and all the team-mates who really like him because he is a really likeable character so there are no excuses.'
PEPE'S SEASON STATS
Games: 39 Goals: 10 Assists: 5
*Stats are from all competitions
Pepe's most recent Arsenal goal - a cool dink to open the scoring at Slavia Prague in the Gunners' 4-0 victory that earned them a Europa League semi-finals - was his tenth of the season.
The Ivorian only managed eight in debut season in north London but did manage to pick up double digits in assists in all competitions.
Despite starting most of his matches during his first season on the right-hand side of the attack, Pepe has been used on the left occasionally by Arteta this season ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli.
His two goals against Slavia Prague mean Arsenal are three Europa League victories away from qualifying for next season's Champions League.
The Gunners are currently ninth in the Premier League table but can move seven points behind West Ham in fourth if they beat Fulham on Sunday.
Arteta refuses to blame fan protest for 'unacceptable' Arsenal display .
Mikel Arteta said a protest against Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and the European Super League was not an excuse for a 1-0 defeat to Everton.Over a thousand Arsenal supporters gathered outside Emirates Stadium to voice their dissent at Kroenke's role in the failed European Super League breakaway project.