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Nicolas Pepe has been given a chance to reclaim his place in the Arsenal side with Granit Xhaka ruled out for three months with a knee injury.

The winger was left out of the north London derby as the Gunners beat Tottenham 3-1 at the Emirates.

Mikel Arteta opted to bring the Swiss midfielder straight back into the line-up after returning from suspension despite Arsenal’s successive wins against Norwich City and Burnley.

Arteta deployed a 4-3-3 formation at Turf Moor with Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe in the middle of the park ahead of Thomas Partey, but reverted to his favoured 4-2-3-1 set up against Spurs as Xhaka replaced Pepe.

Nicolas Pepe has been inconsistent for Arsenal this season


Action Images via Reuters)

Has Nicolas Pepe been a failure of a signing for Arsenal? Comment below

The Gunners boss had a full squad to choose from which suggested this was his strongest XI and would be his preferred team moving forward.

It looked as if Pepe could struggle to back into the side as Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang excelled against Arsenal’s city rivals.

But Xhaka’s upcoming spell on the sidelines has now handed the Ivorian a lifeline as he looks to finally live up to his potential after the north London club spent £72mllion to sign him from Lille in 2019.

Regarding the decision to put Xhaka immediately back into the starting XI, Arteta said: “Obviously we had to think about it, we had different options to play against them.

“We believed that the way they set up and what we wanted to do in the game, it was the right call to do that.

“I understand that a lot of people will say, ‘You won the last two games, why change it?’ but we did it with the intention that it was the right thing to do to start the game and then change it, and unfortunately he got injured.

Granit Xhaka has been ruled out for three months

Before learning the full extent of the injury, Arteta added: “I’m pretty worried because it doesn’t look very positive at the moment.”

Pepe has had an inconsistent start to the season, which sums up how his Arsenal career has gone so far.

But now he has a golden opportunity to get a long run in the side as Arteta is likely to drop Odegaard into a deeper position as he did against Burnley.

Jose Mourinho, like many, had high hopes for Pepe when he first joined Arsenal as he spoke about his “fantastic potential” when he watched him at Lille.

He said: “Last season after I left United, I went a few times to Lille because my friend is the coach there [Christophe Galtier] so I know quite a lot about his qualities,” Mourinho said on Sky Sports at the beginning of the season.

“They were playing 4-4-2 and he was the right-sided player. He knows how to defend, to play in the 4-4-2 as the right-winger, you know how to defend, not only that area but also the inside.

“He does that very well. When he has the ball and also without the ball, he is very effective and very direct.

Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Burnley’s Charlie Taylor battle for the ball


Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)

“The goals that he misses against Arsenal, he normally doesn’t miss it. He’s very cool in front of the keeper and I think this boy has fantastic potential.

“To play as they did last weekend against Liverpool, was out of his natural habitat.

“If they are to play three in midfield with him, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the front, looking to the movements, I think they can make it a real force.”

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Source: DUK News

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