Nicolas Pepe has been in the headlines this week, for good and bad reasons and Mikel Arteta was the first to criticise the player following his red card last weekend.
But Pepe, who is still able to play in the Europa League, featured and excelled in Arsenal’s 3-0 win vs. Molde on Thursday night, scoring a lovely goal in the process.
On Pepe’s man of the match performance against Molde, Arteta said: “I am really pleased. After the disappointment of something negative, you want to see a reaction and I could see from the first minute with his body language that he was ready to act,” our manager said.
“I think he had a great performance, he scored one goal and could have scored another one or two. He created some good moments in the game and worked really hard for the team, so I really like it, I am pleased with that.
“We all know what his level, and all the time the question is how often he can get to that level and how he contributes to other aspects of the game.
Like Mikel has done several times before, the Spaniard insisted that Pepe now needs to deliver this level of performance, consistently.
“Today is the example of the level he needs to hit, and he needs to keep doing it because he is capable of it and you can see that every time he gets in those positions in the final third, he is a real threat and a very difficult player to control because he can go with his feet, he can come inside, he can shoot, he can create crosses and he can go in behind you as well. That is what we can expect from him.”
Pepe will now serve a 3 match suspension following his headbutt against Leeds. Sadly that means the Gunners will be without the Ivorian against Wolves, Tottenham and Burnley. He will however be eligible to play the remaining two Europa League games against Rapid Vienna (H) and Dundalk (A) – albeit those games will be somewhat meaningless due to the fact that Arsenal have already advanced as group winners.