Mikel Arteta says Nicolas Pepe must improve end product to oust Willian from Arsenal team

Nicolas Pepe Arsenal FC v Molde FK: Group B - UEFA Europa League
The winger has only made one start in the Premier League so far this season (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta has told Nicolas Pepe he needs to keep on improving his end product if he wants to nudge ahead of Willian in the Arsenal pecking order and cement a place in the starting XI.

The Ivory Coast winger has been limited to just one start in the Premier League so far this season and was an unused substitute in the Gunners’ victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

He started his third straight game in the Europa League on Thurday night though and scored an excellent finish in a 4-1 victory over Molde, meaning he has scored or assisted every 60 minutes in Europe this season.

Nicolas Pepe Arsenal FC v Molde FK: Group B - UEFA Europa League
Pepe scored and assisted in a strong display against Molde (Picture: Getty)

By comparison, Willian has not contributed to a goal since the opening day of the season against Fulham, though Arteta still says Pepe has plenty of work to do if he wants to usurp the veteran Brazilian.

Asked what Pepe needs to do to start in the Premier League, Arteta explained: ‘Consistency. Throughout the game, throughout 90 minutes, every ball, in every action.

‘And every time he’s on the ball in the final third he [needs to] make a difference. And do it more and more and more.

‘The final product has to be better, not just from him but if you want to become a top, top team and score many more goals then it’s something we have to put higher demands on at the moment.

‘Today he scored a really good goal and got an assist and he can do more. I think he’s on the right path.’

Willian Nicolas Pepe Arsenal FC - Press Conference And Training Session
Willian continues to edge out Pepe in the Premier League line-up (Picture: Getty)

On why Willian is still ahead of Pepe in the Premier League pecking order, he continued: ‘I said to you that I am talking generally. It’s not just Willian or Nico, I think in general consistency-wise in the final third, with the quality that we have, we have to finish more things better.

‘We can improve a lot. That goes for every player, if Nico scores three goals then his aim has to be to score 10. Willian the same, three assists? He needs 10. If we don’t have that mindset then we won’t become the top team that we want to be.’

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