Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has urged club record signing Nicolas Pepe to find more consistency following his performance and goal against Dundalk in the Europa League, suggesting it was an important game for the Ivorian as he looks to kickstart his Gunners career.
Pepe has so far struggled to justify the £72m price tag that came with his move from Lille in 2019 and has only been on the fringes of the team this season. He has started just once in the Premier League and his only other starting opportunities have been in Europe and the Carabao Cup.
But the 25-year-old made the most of his chance in a rotated Arsenal side against the Lilywhites, scoring the Gunners’ third goal in the 3-0 win.
Arteta explained that the key for Pepe is to find better consistency and improve his decision making at the crucial moments so that he can be more effective more often.
“I think he's so willing to do well and show everybody - first of all, his team-mates and myself - and also the fans that he is a player that can make the difference every week,” Arteta said afterwards, via Arsenal.com.
“Obviously, he's not been first choice in a lot of the games at the moment but, to be fair, he's played quite a lot of the moments, some better than others. It's about finding the consistency. Not through the games, but during the games as well to be most instinctive and to be able to do the right things in many, many occasions where he has to make the right decisions on the pitch.
“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. 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.”
It even comes down to being less dependent on his left foot, which can make him easier to defend against, something which the player managed to improve against Dundalk by scoring with his right.
“He's been doing that recently a little bit more, going on the outside,” Arteta explained.
“It's something that he can do. It's just about that one, he attracts people as well and frees someone else with the last pass or the last delivery, which foot he needs to use to attack the defenders as well sometimes to make things easier for him.”