Mikel Arteta insists Nicolas Pepe is not the only Arsenal player who needs to “raise their level” after starting the £72million ace on the bench in Saturday’s 3-0 win away at Fulham.
The Gunners got off to the perfect start in their opening Premier League fixture, with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, new signing Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealing a comfortable victory at Craven Cottage.
Arteta made a bold call prior to the game by leaving Pepe out, instead opting to hand Willian his debut for the club.
In the end that proved an inspired decision, as the Brazilian assisted every goal for his side on the day.
Pepe was given a brief runout with 15 minutes remaining, but there were no minutes for promising youngster Bukayo Saka – while Mesut Ozil was left out of the squad entirely.
And Arteta has urged all three men to raise their game and continue to give him a selection dilemma in the coming weeks.
When asked about Pepe’s omission, the Arsenal manager said: “Well, it's not [just] for Nico, I think it's all the players that were on the bench and the ones that we had to leave at home.
“They have to raise their level and then the performances of the club are going to improve.
“This is what I demand. I'm really happy with all the boys in training but selection is getting more complicated.
“As well, we just have 18 players in the squad, it makes it very difficult.”
Another man who failed to make it into Arteta’s squad on Saturday was William Saliba, who returned from his loan spell at St-Etienne to join Arsenal’s first team this summer.
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“I think it’s going to take him [Saliba] some time to adapt to our way of playing but as well to get adapted to the language, the rhythm, the physicality of the country,” Arteta said.
“As well we have to bear in mind that he didn’t play much football last season with all the injuries he had. So, I think it will be a process that we have to be patient, picking the right games with the right environment and trying to grow because he has a really good potential.”
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