Mikel Arteta failed to unleash Arsenal’s best weapon at Brighton and now must learn to trust him – Jake Stokes

Despite having scored three goals in his last two meetings against Brighton, Mikel Arteta acted upon his emotions following the north London derby by not starting Nicolas Pepe.

Arsenal endured a relatively uninspiring first-half against the Seagulls and looked half the side that faced Spurs, lacking that exciting guile, bite and tenacity that had lifted Thierry Henry from his seat despite having made just one change to cover for the injured Granit Xhaka.

Pepe was withheld to just half an hour of game time at the Amex as either side came close to opening their accounts through various chances before the tie drew to a goalless close.

The home side edged into fifth in the Premier League while Arsenal lurk in ninth, just one point ahead of Tottenham, who face Aston Villa in the game in hand.

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Despite Arsenal having looked as if they had finally taken the first big leap towards reviving the club’s identity since Arsene Wenger’s departure with a gushing win over Tottenham, the Gunners suffered a handful of similar issues raised in the past (despite walking away victorious.

The Gunners were superb against Spurs and Arteta had pioneered an excellent win, however the adrenaline of walking away with the bragging rights saw the Spaniard overlook the historic potency of Pepe against the Seagulls.

Pepe has enjoyed a fruitful goal return against Potter’s side in the past, scoring more goals against Brighton than any other Premier League side.

So, Arteta’s decision not to use Pepe for a starting role cost the Londoners two points against a side they should be eyeing points off of, potentially symbolic of his natural naivety as a relatively new manager at the highest level.

Hindsight is an incredible thing, and should the same front four have emulated their Emirates endeavours Arteta would’ve been labelled a genius, but overlooking Pepe and reducing the winger to half an hour should raise questions.

Equally, Pepe, who arrived at London Colney from Lille in a deal valued at £72 million, hasn’t entirely performed up to his sizeable price tag but he has notoriously scored more goals in the second half of clashes as opposed to the first.

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