Mikel Arteta was very annoyed with Nicholas Pepe after he got sent off against Leeds on Sunday, but the boss kept his faith in the winger and he responded with a Man Of The Match performance against Molde last night.
Arteta was very happy to see him finally playing like a top signing, but he challenged Pepe to now continue playing at the level consistently in the future. The boss told Arsenal.com after the game: “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. 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 is, 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. 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 win 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.”
The fact is that Pepe has had a year to find his feet in the Premier League, but hasn’t shown Arteta the skills that are expected, but hopefully he has taken this wake-up call to galvanize himself into playing to the quality he showed in France before getting his big money move to the Emirates.
It’s a shame we won’t be able to see his reaction in the Premier League for another few weeks, but we will all just have to keep our fingers crossed that he continues to impress Arteta in training and prove he now deserves a starting spot in the first team…