Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has spoken highly of Nicolas Pepe following his display and “magnificent” goal in the Gunners’ Europa League win at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners boss also told Football London how he’s working hard with the 25-year-old to help him improve on his consistency with the “simple things”.
Pepe joined Arsenal last summer in a club-record £72million move, penning a five-year deal with the Gunners reportedly worth £140,000-a-week.
While there were moments of brilliance and some great individual performances last season, he wasn’t able to put in consistently great displays week in, week out.
In Thursday night’s Group B win over Dundalk, the attacker initially struggled but improved greatly in the second half, registering a goal – on his weaker foot – and an assist.
Asked by Football London whether it was encouraging seeing Pepe score with his right foot, Arteta replied: “It’s nothing to do with me, that! That was his action and he scored a magnificent goal.”
The Spaniard was also asked about what he thought was missing from his the £140,000-a-week ace’s game, and he said: “It’s nothing to do with his attitude.
“He’s a player that takes risks. He’s a very creative player and this is the most difficult thing in football, when they all know what you can do as well and how much they want to prevent your space and the overloads that they generate to defend you as well.
“So to create situations for them is complicated, but sometimes it’s the simple things: the deliveries, the amount of situations he is able to create or attract and then make the right decision to keep evolving that final ball, the finishing, the positioning inside the box which he has to be more consistent at.
“We are working on that and hopefully he will be doing that much more efficiently.”
The problem with players moving for huge sums of money, particularly when such sums break club records, is that sometimes those players get over-burdened with unrealistic expectations, as if they’re to instantly hit the ground running and register Ronaldo-esque goal and assist tallies.
Particularly when players change countries and leagues, there’s some acclimatising to do – and early-season struggles culminating in a managerial change doesn’t help either.
Pepe is a talented player, and with an improving team around him and a quality young coach at the helm, he’s bound to keep improving.