Mikel Arteta sends message to Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal record holder after Fulham snob

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Mikel Arteta challenged Arsenal record-signing Nicolas Pepe to improve (Photos: Getty)

Mikel Arteta has challenged Nicolas Pepe to ‘raise his level’ after signing Arsenal’s record for the season opener in the Premier League against Fulham.

Pepe, who made a record-breaking £ 72million transfer to the Emirates in the summer of 2019, started Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory over Chelsea at the end of last season.

However, the Ivorian international – who suffered a mixed first campaign in north London – was benched at Craven Cottage on Saturday, with Arteta opting to give new signing Willian his Arsenal debut instead.

Pepe replaced the former Chelsea star with 15 minutes remaining, but by then Arsenal had already put the game to bed, with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, with debutant Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang securing a 3-0 victory.

Asked about Pepe’s omission, Arteta said, “Well, it’s not [just] for Nico, I think it’s for the players who were on the bench and also the ones we had to leave at home.

“If they increase their level, the performance of the team and the club will improve and that’s what I demand of them.

“I’m really happy with all the boys and the way they train, but the selection is getting complicated and with this new rule of only having 18 players on the team, it’s very difficult. ”

Arteta also admitted he was surprised by the performance levels of his new signing colleague Gabriel after his £ 23million move from Lille.

“He hadn’t played football for six months, so coming to play in the Premier League after training with the team for three or four days is a big task,” added the Gunners boss.

“The boy showed a lot of character and what he can do. He can still improve a lot but he had a very good game.

“Willian knows the league, the country and is very settled here so I knew his performance would settle down immediately.

Arsenal, at the top of the Premier League after their categorical victory on opening day, face London rivals West Ham next weekend.

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