Mikel Arteta insists that the “hurting” Nicolas Pepe is trying “his best” to come good for Arsenal as they look to rectify their poor form.
On Tuesday night, the Gunners were outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who reached the Carabao Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 4-1 win at the Emirates Stadium.
Arteta has not seen his side win a domestic game since November 1 but he opted to make eight changes to the team that lost at Everton on Saturday.
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Pepe did come off the bench against City, but failed to have an impact, and after the match Arteta insisted that the Ivorian was “suffering” as much as anyone else.
“He is hurting, he is suffering – believe me, I am close to him – and he is trying his best,” Arteta told reporters (via Goal).
“He feels the responsibility because be knows why the club brought him here and he wants to deliver that.”
Arteta added: “I would always defend my players. Whatever I have to discuss with him, it will be internally.
“Pepe wants to do his best and help as much as he possibly can. This is what I am interested in.
“It is my job and if he doesn’t, it is my fault. He is trying his best. We all know Nico and sometimes his body language makes him feel bad.”
Pepe has only scored 13 goals in 61 appearances for Arsenal since moving to the Emirates Stadium from Lille in a deal worth £72m.