Nicolas Pepe has previously delivered his verdict on playing in the No. 9 role amid suggestions he should be given a chance at centre-forward for Arsenal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s exit means that the Gunners have lost their main source of goals in recent years.
Whilst they will need to address that issue in the summer transfer market, for the remainder of the season, the club have predominantly entrusted Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah – both of whom are expected to follow Aubameyang through the exit door – with the burden of finding the form needed to fire Arsenal to the Champions League.
Gunners legend Ian Wright has suggested that Mikel Arteta could play Pepe more centrally after Aubameyang left the club.
“I’d like to see something from him. When you watch him in the Africn Cup of Nations, I feel as though the defending is even harder with how athletic and how good they are and how intelligent they are,” he said whilst speaking on the Ringer FC Podcast, via HITC.
“You have to do a lot more, and he’s done it. Why aren’t we getting that out of him?
“Play him as a false nine, play him in a role where he’s free and he can run at people. It seems to me that Mikel is doing something where he has to take a chance on that.
“Because I’m feeling that the goals are going to come from Emile Smith Rowe, Saka and hopefully Martinelli, and I’m not saying that any of them are proven like Aubameyang was, but we’re talking about someone who can frighten defenders and he can take half chances, we’ve seen that.”
Pepe played up front for Marcelo Bielsa at Lille in the first half of the 2017/18 season before the current Leeds boss had his contract terminated that December.
He played 16 games through the middle (13 under Bielsa), scoring three goals, and adding one assist in that time.
“I wasn’t that eager to play as a No 9. I’m a player who likes to run at defenders,” he said, as cited by the Athletic.
Christophe Galtier later took charge and moved Pepe back to the right-wing, where he scored 10 goals, assisting four times in 17 matches, suggesting that he feels more comfortable in that position.
It’s certainly an option for Arteta to consider if the Gunners struggle for goals in the coming months, but judging by Pepe’s opinion on the matter, it’s not going to be the first choice option for player or manager.