Arsenal beat Sheffield United in the quarter-final of the FA Cup this weekend and Nicolas Pepe was one of the standout performers for the Gunners.
The Ivorian was brought in last summer for a transfer fee of £72million but so far this season, the winger has failed to impress, scoring just eight goals and providing eight assists in 35 appearances for the club.
This might seem a good number given that this is his first season in England but last year, he had netted 23 goals and twelve more in just 41 matches for Lille. So clearly, Nicolas Pepe has seen a massive dip in form.
But against the Blades, the 25-year-old looked much more solid and assured on the ball, scoring Arsenal’s first goal from the penalty spot. And speaking about his winger’s newfound confidence, Arteta claimed that slowly and steadily, Nicolas Pepe is unwrapping his talents at the Emirates.
“I’m very excited about what he can bring [in the future] and what he’s bringing to the team this season,” said Arteta after the match, as per the club’s official website.
“I think he’s made a click and I think he realises what he needs to do for the team when we don’t have the ball.
“I’m so pleased today, you’ve seen his defensive actions were incredible with what he’s doing, and then with the ball he gives us that creativity and flair that we need and big teams need.
“He’s always unpredictable with what can happen when he’s got the ball at his feet, so I think he’s [heading] in the right direction.
“I really liked him from the past. I didn’t know him personally, but I think he is a player with incredible potential, but he needs to be decisive in every game and he needs to take care of moments in the game when he disconnects himself a little bit.
“He cannot do that, and I will be very persistent with him to try to change that because at his best, he can make the difference for the team.
“He’s very willing, he’s such a nice boy and he’s always smiling, always positive around everybody. He’s a bit of a free spirit, but that’s good! We need all kinds of characters in the team and now he’s showing his commitment to us.”
Nicolas Pepe is surely taking small strides towards getting back his old form but he needs a continuous run of games under his belt in order to recover not only his touch but also his confidence.
But this prolonged break has certainly helped the 25-year-old retrospect himself and work on his flaws.