Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith has urged Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to start Gabriel Martinelli in place of Nicolas Pepe against Leeds on Sunday.
The Gunners are desperate to get back to winning ways after two consecutive defeats in the Premier League. Leeds even leapfrogged us in the table after our loss against Aston Villa, and only a win on Sunday can set that straight.
Arteta has a lot of decisions to make but what seemed straightforward was Pepe starting on the left. The Ivorian has been excellent in recent weeks and many feel that he has earned the right to keep his place in the starting lineup.
However, Smith believes that Pepe is too ‘laid-back’ and has urged Arteta to bring in Martinelli in place of him.
He wrote on his column on the Evening Standard: “For Arteta, then, team selection becomes crucial in trying to counter this unique challenge. Who wants to run? Who wants to fight? Just one idle attitude can topple the house of cards at a time when Arsenal badly need a morale-boosting win.
“For that reason, I would go with the energy of Gabriel Martinelli rather than the laid-back style of Pepe who, for all his improvements, does not react quickly enough when Arsenal lose the ball. Getting back into shape must happen pretty sharpish against rampaging visitors.”
Arsenal Insider’s view:
Smith has a point there with respect to Martinelli’s energy. The Brazilian, signed by Unai Emery at the start of last season, works extremely hard for the team, and his contribution in attack as well as defence makes him a good option.
However, Arteta simply cannot drop Pepe at the moment. The former Lille man is having his best run in an Arsenal shirt and forcing him to make way for a player who was subbed off at half-time against Manchester United would shatter his confidence.
It will be interesting to see what Arteta does. Pepe is the favourite to start this weekend, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both the Ivorian and Martinelli starting on either flank with Bukayo Saka dropping down to left-back.