Mikel Arteta is raising doubt over Nicolas Pepe having a long-term future at Arsenal, amid reports the Spaniard again wants to reunite with Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling.
That’s according to the Daily Star, who claimed over the weekend that Arteta is monitoring Sterling’s ongoing contract negotiations. The pair worked closely during the Gunners boss’ time at the Etihad Stadium as Pep Guardiola’s number two, and remains a huge admirer.
Sterling now tops Arsenal’s list of potential targets for 2022 as he has just 20-months left on his current contract. Talks are underway over an extension, but progress is slow due to his expected terms and his current limited role.
Sterling wants Manchester City to up his wage from £300k-a-week to £350k to commit for four-years, with Arsenal watching closely. The Citizens will likely look to sell next summer if they cannot agree terms to avoid him leaving for free.
Guardiola has been less reliant on the 26-year-old so far this season as he has in the past. Sterling has only started two of his seven Premier League appearances for a total of 274 minutes to date. He has also only scored once, coming against Norwich on matchday two.
Should Arsenal target Arteta – Sterling reunion?
Arteta knows what Sterling is capable of producing if he joins Arsenal after a trophy-laden spell together at Manchester City. The Spanish coach and England winger won back-to-back Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two Community Shields.
Guardiola also explained how Arteta helped Sterling improve his finishing before leaving Manchester City to take over at Arsenal. Where he sought a reunion this summer, per Eurosport, after making enquiries into his interest in a potential transfer.
But Arteta targeting a cut-price swoop for Sterling – who Guardiola hails as an ‘exceptional’ player, via FourFourTwo – would raise question marks over Pepe having a future Arsenal.
Sterling in, Pepe out at the Emirates Stadium?
Pepe ended last season having appeared to find his home at Arsenal on the right-wing with a strong finish. The Ivorian offered five goals in his final three Premier League appearances to end the campaign with double-figures. He also scored six times in the Europa League.
But Arteta has been hesitant to rely on Pepe lately as his form has not warranted minutes at Arsenal. He is yet to score and has assisted once – against Norwich – over five top-flight games. While playing just 27-minutes over clashes with Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton.
That game time came on the south coast on Saturday, but Pepe failed to show Arteta why he deserves more chances, or why Arsenal should back him over a move to sign Sterling. The £140k-a-week forward was anonymous and struggled to get the better of Dan Burn.
Pepe must show a positive response to potentially save his Arsenal career, as Arteta faces a decision over his future. The £72m record-signing’s contract expires in 2024, so must decide to renew or cash in to get the best price.