Arsenal legend Charlie Nicholas has urged Mikel Arteta to trust Nicolas Pepe to start the New Year’s Day clash against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
Pepe has so far only made fleeting appearances under the new Gunners boss, appearing as an 82nd minute substitute in the Boxing Day draw at Bournemouth and in the 86th minute in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea .
The Gunners’ record signing has flattered to deceive since his summer arrival from Lille, with previous boss Unai Emery often appearing reluctant to start him in the bigger matches.
Arteta started with Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attacking positions in both the Bournemouth and Chelsea games, but Nicholas thinks the arrival of United in north London is the perfect chance to use Pepe from the start.
The Scot – who is predicting that Arsenal will win the match 3-2 – told Sky Sports : “Man Utd are getting good results, while the counter-attack is so dangerous at the Emirates.
“I am going to stick with Arsenal , as they can get at the full-backs and defence.
“It (the football under Arteta) seems more pleasant to watch but the table looks awful for Arsenal. They need a win and it is not about closing the gap to the top four as that is fantasy for them this year.
“Mikel Arteta started with a draw and a harsh defeat so it is time for them to get a win. Man Utd will be very dangerous on the counter-attack, but Reiss Nelson has been decent, and Arteta could give Nicolas Pepe a start.
“He may just be ready to come and do something.”