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Arsenal fans react to Pepe’s absence from Mikel Arteta’s first starting XI

Marking the start of a new era at Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s first official starting XI as Gunners boss was always going to lead to some major talking points – especially considering very few players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bernd Leno being the only exceptions, have proved this season that they clearly deserve to be on the team-sheet.

But perhaps the key takeaway from Arteta’s first ever Arsenal XI was his decision to leave out club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, a £72m talent who has endured a tricky start to life in the Premier League with just two goals to his name so far.

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That being said, Pepe has averaged 2 shots, 1.2 key passes and 3.1 dribbles per match in the top flight, so perhaps a run of improved output is just around the corner. Some Arsenal fans seem to think so, as they fumed at Arteta’s call to bench him against Bournemouth…

Other supporters though, were quick to justify Arteta’s decision, offering a variety of reasons why he may have elected not to start the Ivory Coast international at the Vitality Stadium. Some fans focused on the defensive side of his game – with one naming Ryan Fraser as a key Bournemouth threat – while another pointed out how hectic the fixture schedule is at this time of year, and the subsequent need to manage the squad accordingly.

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One Gunners fan, more ominously, pointed to this being a recurring theme amongst all three of the club’s managers this season, as another insisted there was probably a good reason for that.

Ultimately, whether it was the right decision from Arteta remains open to debate. Arsenal could only draw at Bournemouth but Pepe failed to take a shot or create a chance during his eight-minute substitute appearance, albeit also completing three dribbles.

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Perhaps that was just enough to earn him a start next time out – but the extent to which Pepe features in Arteta’s vision for Arsenal going forward remains unclear at this stage.

Article title: Arsenal fans react to Pepe’s absence from Mikel Arteta’s first starting XI

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