Arsenal’s star summer signing Nicolas Pepe was an unused substitute in the 2-2 draw against Norwich City because of his training performances, according to the club’s new interim manager Freddie Ljungberg.
The Gunners twice fought back from a goal down to get the point at Carrow Road, with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang twice cancelling out strikes from Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell.
As the away side chased a victory in the second half, Ljungberg opted to bring on 18-year-old attackers Bukayo Sako and Gabriel Martinelli, leaving Pepe sitting in his tracksuit on the bench.
When asked about the decision to shun the Ivory Coast winger, Ljungberg revealed he decides his team selection on what he sees at training.
“Nicolas Pepe is a very good player but I try to go off what I see in training and what’s being done everyday and that’s how I judge,” Ljungberg said after his first match in charge following the sacking of Unai Emery.
It was the third time in the past month Pepe has remained on the substitutes bench, with the Ivorian also failing to be used in the draws against Wolves and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Pepe has struggled to settle at the Emirates since joining in a £72 million ($87m) from Ligue 1 club Lille in the off-season, with none of his three goals coming from open play.
He was brought to Arsenal after a stunning season in France, where his 22 league goals for Lille put him behind only PSG star Kylian Mbappe (33) and ahead of the likes of Edinson Cavani (18) and Neymar (15).
The draw against Norwich leaves Arsenal in eighth position on the Premier League table, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Despite dominating the Canaries early in the match, the Gunners went behind in the 21st minute as Pukki’s deflected shot wrong-footed Bernd Leno.
It only took eight minutes for Arsenal to draw level via Aubameyang’s retaken spot kick, after the first effort was saved by Tim Krul and ordered to be repeated by VAR after Max Aarons’ encroached during the run-up.
But Norwich again snatched the lead on the stroke of half-time when Cantwell found the bottom corner with a shot from Abel Hernandez’s pass.
Aubameyang popped up in the second half to draw the away side level once again, but the Gunners couldn’t go on to find a winner.
Arsenal have now failed to win any of their last eight games and will welcome Brighton to the Emirates in the league on Thursday.