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‘Where was Pepe? Arsenal can only rely on Saka’ – Campbell takes aim at underperforming ‘big players’

11:11 GMT 17/12/2020
Nicolas Pepe Bukayo Saka Arsenal 2020-21
The former Gunners striker admits Mikel Arteta is being let down by those who should be leading from the front in north London

Bukayo Saka has, at 19 years of age, become the only player that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta can rely on, says Kevin Campbell, with too many “big players” letting the Gunners down.

The 2020-21 campaign has quickly become a forgettable one at Emirates Stadium, with a north London heavyweight making its worst start to a Premier League season.

Arteta’s side have become firmly wedged in a serious rut, with their last outing seeing more points dropped – and another red card collected – in a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton.

Changes were made in that contest, with Willian and Alexandre Lacazette dropped to the bench amid struggles for form.

Their replacements fared little better, though, with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe putting in another uninspiring performance.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was able to get back on the scoresheet, but there has been little cause for encouragement from the Gunners of late.

Campbell admits as much, with academy graduate Saka – who became a first-team regular in 2019-20 – considered to be the only chink of light in the dark for Arsenal.

The former Gunners striker told Amazon Prime after witnessing a frustrating stalemate against the Saints: “Arsenal's attitude was better in the second half, they had more energy, which was asked for.

“Where was Pepe? We don't see him, these players who are the gifted, big players we're not seeing them. 

“A lot of people are questioning Arteta but I don't, I'm questioning the players. 

“Saka is positive, he picks the ball up and drives. When you commit defenders, opportunities open for the main men.

“So many senior players are struggling for form that Arteta has to juggle his squad. He's got no-one he can rely on really apart from a young lad.”

Arsenal need to start finding a spark from somewhere as they are currently perched just five points above the Premier League relegation zone.

Positive progress has been made through to the last 32 of the Europa League, but domestic struggles are becoming alarming.

Things are not about to get any easier for Arteta either, with the former Everton midfielder set to take his Gunners side to Goodison Park on Saturday for a meeting with Carlo Ancelotti’s men.