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Nicolas Pepe must come back one way or another

Arsenal has to decide how to get Nicolas Pepe back into this starting XI against Tottenham, no matter what that means to anyone else.

Despite how star-studded this Arsenal attack is, we can’t hide from the fact that it has been a bit hit and miss this year. Even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had his streakiness. But the one person who has been consistent over the past few months, even back before the pause, is Nicolas Pepe.

Pepe has the best goal contributions per minute ratio on the team, and he’s done it through a start to the season that was overladen in acclimation, as well as being overtaken by Bukayo Saka, which is at risk of happening again now.

I understand the whole “play the hot hand” idea, and Bukayo Saka is without a doubt a hot hand, not to mention just a beacon of excitement regardless, but no matter what other decisions Mikel Arteta makes leading up to the North London Derby, Nicolas Pepe has to be back in the starting XI.

As I’ve mentioned, this is not a bad situation to be in. But what we have to remember, too, is that Saka is a visitor at Pepe’s position. That is Pepe’s job and he hasn’t lost it. Far from it. Rather, he’s fortified it and proven himself to be our best and most dynamic attacker.

I also understand that Saka needs this time to grow and develop, not to mention he hasn’t exactly proven incapable of doing Pepe’s job. But I’d also still argue that despite Saka’s last two matches, Pepe is still better off at the role than Saka.

So Arteta has a few options to make sure that Pepe gets back to where he belongs. Especially now that he’s had an extended rest.

He could just swap Saka out for Pepe, but that should be avoided. Saka is Saka, and every day we don’t get to see as much as we could from him is a bummer.

He could do a little chain reaction, swapping Saka to left wingback and resting Kieran Tierney or moving Tierney to left centerback. But we don’t really want to mess with Tierney either. He’s been tremendous.

The happy third option, as I wrote about yesterday, is starting them both on either side of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Next: Arsenal vs Tottenham Predicted XI

Honestly, while I don’t want to upset anyone’s groove, any of these options work for me. I just know that Pepe has to be out there, no excuses.

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