NICOLAS PEPE’S future at Arsenal is looking increasingly uncertain after the latest snub by boss Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners’ £72million record signing was an unused substitute for the 2-1 defeat at Everton on Monday night.
Most fans expected him to step in when Gabriel Martinelli went down with a hamstring problem with 19 minutes remaining.
But instead Arteta turned to youngster Eddie Nketiah – who looks certain to leave the Emirates in the summer after turning down a new contract.
The decision could have paid off as the England youth international wasted a golden chance to restore Arsenal’s lead – heading a point blank header against the post.
But it leaves questions over where Ivory Coast star Pepe is in the pecking order – as he has not featured at all since October 30.
And even in that game against Leicester he was limited to just five minutes of action.
The ex-Lille winger has failed to come off the bench in the club’s last five Premier League games having fallen out of favour under Arteta.
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Arteta was asked about the decision to bring on Nketiah following Arsenal’s third defeat in their last four games.
He said: “I decided to play Eddie today, to bring him on. He created three chances and hit the post in the space of 25 minutes I think.
“He does everything in training what you saw him do in 25 minutes here. Every single day. That’s why I picked him.”
The decision will only intensify rumours there is a problem between the manager and Pepe – who has started only five Prem matches this season.
Club captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang also stayed on the bench until the 85th minute with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville suggesting there could be trouble ahead there too.
The Manchester United legend remarked: “I think there’ll be a problem with Aubameyang after this.
“I don’t think he’ll like the idea of Nketiah coming on or being subbed full stop.
“There’s always a little bit of a bug between Arteta and Aubameyang.
“I know he’s the captain but he leaves him out and it feels like something a bit awkward.
“It’s going to cause a problem and I bet if he could get a bit of money for him and get someone else they would.
“And I bet if Aubameyang could he would move on as as well because it could turn a little sour.”
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