Arsenal legend Ian Wright spoke on BBC Match of the Day about the one decision taken by Mikel Arteta that has backfired this season.
The Gunners ended the campaign in eighth and we will not be in Europe next term as a result. That makes this a truly terrible season, but when you actually notice that we finished just six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, the perspective slightly changes.
If Arsenal had managed to pick up just two more wins, our season would’ve been viewed completely differently. That, as harsh as it is, is down to the manager, and Wright has highlighted an error that Arteta committed early in the season that cost us plenty of points.
Ian Wright: Arteta should’ve trusted Arsenal star Nicolas Pepe more
He said: “I’d have liked to have seen the faith shown in him (Nicolas Pepe) earlier on this season.
“He (Arteta) persisted with Willian and we saw how that worked out. He’s (Pepe) somebody that we know what he is capable of. He’s got a lot of skill and his first goal (against Brighton on Sunday) is a fantastic goal. His touch and finish are brilliant, it’s beautiful.
“Showing faith in Willian hasn’t worked out and what needs to happen now is a big summer for Arsenal.”
The Insider’s View:
Both Willian and Pepe started 16 games each in the Premier League this season. Most of the Ivorian’s starts came in the second half of the campaign and the difference in numbers between the two players is astonishing.
Pepe, in his 16 league starts, managed to score 10 times. Five of those appearances came in an unnatural left-wing position – a role that really limits his best traits as a winger.
Willian, on the other hand, managed just one goal in his 16 starts. He started all but two of Arsenal’s first 14 games in the league this term, and his lack of direct goal involvements during that period really cost us.
Looking back now, you can’t help but feel bad for Pepe. The Ivorian finished the season with 21 goal involvements in all competitions – that number could’ve been a lot higher if his manager trusted him more at the start of the campaign. Hopefully, that will change next season.