Chris Sutton gave Arsenal attacker Nicolas Pepe big praise for the way he responded to his weekend’s red card by starring on Thursday evening in the Europa League.
The 25-year-old was sent off for a headbutt during Sunday’s goalless draw to Leeds United in the Premier League, but Spanish manager Mikel Arteta gave him a chance to redeem himself on the European stage.
He showed great character to score an excellent left-footed finisher in a 3-0 away victory to Norwegian side Molde in the Europa League group stages and looked a danger throughout in the final third, including striking the crossbar just before his goal.
It’s been a competition that the right-winger has thrived in this season, scoring three goals and supplying two assists in the four group matches so far.
Pundit Sutton was impressed by the performance of Pepe on Thursday:
“Tonight I thought he was excellent and thats the way to respond [to his red card],” Pepe told BT Sport 2 (10:55pm, 26 November).
“Look, I always thought he was a decent signing when Arsenal picked him up, they paid really massive money for him. But he’s a dribbler, he’s creative, he’s got a wonderful, wonderful left foot. A really good response.”
With Pepe now facing a suspension in the Premier League, the Europa League competition has become even more important to him for the next couple of weeks and he managed to prove a point with an eye-catching display.
The dazzling wide player has looked a different animal altogether when it comes to his European form and the manager needs to find a way of helping him to perform on that consistent basis domestically.
He’s a £72million signing (BBC) that has proven he’s got the individual ability, but he needs to be shining in the Premier League to help repay that price tag.