Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan shows why Nicolas Pepe needs to start urgently

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

Arsenal put in a rather indifferent display in their opening Premier League match of the season.

In many senses, it was a game typical of two teams who have only just finished pre-season. It lacked much quality and the fact it only finished 1-0 tells the story of a lack of creativity.

Neither were very impressive going forward as the Gunners struggled to make inroads.

One of the main reasons for that, however, was because of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

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On the chalkboard

Unai Emery had decisions to make ahead of the opening weekend and instead of fielding new signings Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, opted for Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Mkhitaryan behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The two academy graduates showed promising signs but the Armenian didn’t. He made some energetic runs forward but when in possession of the ball was particularly poor.

He kept on losing it and that was summed up the by fact he lost possession an incredible 15 times in the first half alone.

For someone who is usually so composed, this was alarming.

Yet, it proved why Pepe has to get the nod over him imminently. The truth is, that Mkhitaryan isn’t the type of player Arsenal need to take them to the next level.

He contributed to ten goals in the Premier League last term but that doesn’t paint the full picture of his inconsistency, something that was evident against Newcastle on Sunday.

The 30-year-old lacked a creative spark but Pepe, who wasn’t afforded too much time on his debut from the bench, is someone who from his days in France looks like he can provide that.

Pepe netted 22 times in Ligue 1 last term whilst also claiming 11 assists in a fabulous campaign.

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It’s that sort of threat that the Gunners lacked from out wide in 2018/19, and indeed missed again during the opening match of 2019/20.

Given the colossal fee Pepe arrived for, it surely won’t be long before he starts regularly for Arsenal. Just how poor Mkhitaryan played proves why Emery might be better off fast-tracking him into the XI.

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