The North London Derby triumph on Sunday featured a number of outstanding individual efforts, but Bukayo Saka’s was possibly the most pleasing.
Despite the fact that he played a major role in goals against Norwich, Burnley, and AFC Wimbledon, the England international has received some harsh criticism, implying that he is suffering from a post-Euros hangover.
However, against Tottenham, the 20-year-old was able to add the end product that he had been accused of lacking in his game with an assist and a goal of his own.
While the loud Arsenal fans inside the Emirates Stadium were ecstatic with the performance, there was one individual who was concerned.
Nicolas Pepe, the guy who had been virtually pushed out of the team as Saka shifted back to the right-wing, was watching from the bench.
The Hale Ender has played on the left side of the field in most of this season’s early games. The goal is for him to drift into the half-space, allowing Kieran Tierney to overlap and creating opportunities for him.
This is a departure from where he spent the majority of last season’s second half and this summer’s Euros with England.
Saka proved why he needed to play on the right side more often after coming on against AFC Wimbledon, dribbling into the box for Emile Smith Rowe’s strike and passing to Cedric, who assisted Eddie Nketiah’s backheeled finish.
Continuing in the role against Spurs, he was once again brilliant, causing Sergio Reguilon issues all game.
Saka’s ability to cut inside as well as dribble towards the by-line on his right allows him to take guys on without the need for an overlapping right-back, which, given Takehiro Tomiyasu’s defensive-first strategy, is ideal for the type of football Arteta wants to play.
This is fantastic for Arsenal, but it causes problems for Pepe.
If Pepe fails to secure a regular starting berth in the second half of the season, his future will be called into doubt.
At the end of this season, the £72 million signing will have just two years left on his contract, putting him in the infamous’sign or sell’ region advocated by Raul Sanllehi.
Arsenal will be aware that Pepe, who is 26 years old, is one of the players in the squad who might command a reasonable fee in the summer transfer window.
If Gabriel Martinelli is still not in Arteta’s first-choice line-up at the end of the season, the Gunners may decide to sell him to help fund the next phase of Edu’s squad makeover.
When Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah’s contracts expire next summer, the money saved might be utilized to assist bring in a new center forward.