Hector Bellerin says Nicolas Pepe will take huge confidence from his match-winning brace after the Ivorian came off the bench to help Arsenal to a dramatic late 3-2 victory against Portuguese side Vitoria.
The £72 million summer signing has struggled for form since arriving from Lille but this evening felt like a turning point in his Gunners story as he netted two stunning free-kicks in the space of 12 minutes, the second with virtually the last kick of the game.
Prior to that the Gunners had twice fallen behind in the first half, Marcus Edwards and Bruno Duarte scoring either side of Gabriel Martinelli’s header.
While there remain plenty of questions about Emery’s side, Bellerin, who captained the side, made clear that you can’t always win pretty and that individual brilliance is to be welcomed.
“We know what he [Pepe] is capable of because we’ve been training with him for a long time,” he told Arsenal.com.
“We knew how good he’s been for the last couple of seasons. Sometimes coming to another country and coming into another league can take time, but I think this is going to be very important for the team and very important for him to score these two goals.
“Also it’s important that goals can sometimes come from individual actions. We want to play as a team but sometimes you need these players to produce these moments of magic. That makes you come from 2-1 down to win 3-2, so it’s important for us as a club to know that we have these different resources.”
He added: “It’s important as a team to be able to win games that evolve in different ways.
“In the last Europa League game, it was a 4-0 win and here towards the end, we were 2-1 down.
“But we managed to turn it around so it’s very important for the confidence of the team to see that we can win every single game even if things are against us, or in our favour. I think we can take a lot of confidence and good spirit from this game.”
Bellerin also admitted that Arsenal are currently falling below the standards expected of the club when it comes to keeping the ball. That said, he’s eager for his teammates to keep playing their game in the hope the mistakes are ironed out.
“There’s loads of things we’ve got to improve as a team,” said the Spaniard.
“Football keeps evolving and there are different rivals, different things that you’ve got to do in different games.
“I think that we had to keep the ball better but that’s our trade. We want to play football and you know that when you try to play football, sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to stop playing that way.
“We have a style of play, it’s in our DNA, and we want to keep playing like that. We’re human, we’ll make mistakes, but we need to keep pushing. Playing in the same way that we tried in the first half, in the second half we found the holes.
“That’s how it works: you need to keep pushing and doing what you believe in, then towards the end everything falls into place.”