Mikel Arteta has praised Nicolas Pepe for the improvements he’s made to his game and urged the Ivorian to keep delivering consistently.
Switching between the right and left flanks, the £72 million winger has netted against Southampton and Wolves in the last week and generally looked far more menacing in attack. He’s also caught the eye with some determined work in defence.
In total this season, the 25-year-old has 10 goal involvements (7 goals and three assists) in 26 appearances. Having notched 8 goals and 10 assists in 42 games last season, he now has half a season to reach a new level.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa, Arteta said: “Even when we made decisions not to play him, he kept working hard.
“He has improved in a lot of areas and has been much more consistent for 90 minutes.
“He’s a threat at the moment because he’s been scoring goals, he’s been assisting players, he’s been a real threat. He needs to continue doing that.”
Regular game time in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears to have boosted his confidence. Obviously, this is a positive thing but it also gives the boss a headache now that his captain is out of quarantine and ready to start games.
Addressing the issue, Arteta said: “At the end of the day, we have to play the players who are in the best form and everybody has to earn the right to play and participate in the games.
“That’s what everybody’s doing, pushing each other to raise the level. You can see that the level has been raised because everybody is playing at their best.
“There’s still room for improvement so everybody has to keep pushing.”