Mikel Arteta has responded to Nicolas Pepe after the Arsenal winger cast doubt over his future at the club.
The Ivorian has been surplus to requirements this season with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli all above him in the pecking order.
Pepe has only managed one goal in the Premier League this year and these struggles have been a common theme throughout his time in north London.
The 26-year-old has failed to live up to his £72million price tag after Arsenal signed him for Lille in the summer of 2019. There were reports that he was going to leave in January, but nothing materialised.
Pepe has held talks with Arteta about his lack of playing time, but he has remained on the fringes of the Spaniard’s squad since the New Year.
He continues to be linked with a move away from the Emirates and could find a new club in the summer transfer window.
Pepe didn’t rule out that possibility either as he refused to give away his plans for the summer and beyond.
On if a summer move could be on the cards, Pepe – whose current contract expires in 2024 – said: “I am focused on how well we do until the end of the season and the club’s target, which is getting into the Champions League. Then we will see what happens.”
He added: “It is an honour to play for Ivory Coast. The most important thing is to enjoy your football. That is something I am able to do when I get the chance to play.
“It is happening at international level and a bit less so at club level. It is frustrating not to play. No player enjoys not playing but I have to respect the coach’s decision.
“When a team is winning it is hard for a coach to make changes. Mikel has explained that to me and I know I have to work hard in training to get more playing time.
“The coach knows what I think and how hard I am working. It is also about communication. Sometimes it is not easy to communicate with the language barrier. It has been a tough season for me.”
Asked if he feels he has grown since joining Arsenal in the summer of 2019, Pepe continued: “I have improved since coming to London.
English football is totally different from French football, particularly the intensity in the matches and I had to adapt physically and make that transition which I feel I have done.”
Arteta was asked about those remarks, in particular Pepe’s admission that he needs to work harder to get into the team.
And the Spaniard was bullish in his response as he pleads with the forward to put his words into action.
He said: “I want to hear that if that’s an honest opinion. I think with Nico it is because he hasn’t shown anything different to me.
I don’t want to find players who have the complacency to accept the situation.
They have to want to improve, try to get the player who is playing to a different level and helping the team more. When you have the opportunity, you have to take it.”
Asked if he has that focus and application, Arteta added: “Again, he’s another one.
A completely different character to Cedric but every day in his own way he’s trying to help the team when he’s needed.”