Mikel Arteta has praised Nicolas Pepe ahead of our Europa League clash with Benfica this evening.
The Ivory Coast international has enjoyed a return to form of late, and it was in the group stages of the Europa where he enjoyed his best performances earlier in the season.
The expectations were high for our record signing, who was amongst the club’s better performers in the back end of the 2020-21 campaign.
Things didn’t go according to plan however, and the former Lille forward lost his key role in the first-team, but has enjoyed a resurgence since Christmas.
The manager admits that Pepe’s form was helped by the Europa League where he was able to rotate his players in the group stages, and that Nico profited from that.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s clash with Benfica, Arteta said (via Arsenal.com): “Yes, the fact that we have the Europa League gave the opportunity to almost everyone in the squad to be fit and available and compete for their place. He’s had some really good matches and scored some important goals as well and I think that has helped him for the Premier League form and the recent form that he’s shown.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, in his mentality, the way he approaches every training session, in his understanding of the game as well. It’s true that he has patches where he’s played more than at other times. He has had the opportunity over the last couple of months that probably every player has been seeking to have but I think overall there is a lot of progress with Nico.”
Pepe could be in line to return to the starting line-up today, having been overlooked in favour of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe at the weekend.
Do you expect Pepe to make the starting line-up this evening?