Mikel Arteta has urged Nicolas Pepe to ‘keep the basics right’ after the Ivorian, in his view, produced his best performance so far at Wolves.
Playing off the left flank, the 25-year-old was a constant menace before and after he broke the deadlock on a night when he was eventually sacrificed as a result of a change in shape implemented after David Luiz’s red card.
While the Gunners lost the match 2-1, Arteta was pleased with all aspects of Pepe’s game which he neatly showcased in the action that led to his goal.
Not only did the £72 million signing steal the ball for Arsenal deep in the opponent’s half, he then showed strength and quick feet to beat two men before unleashing an unstoppable curling effort past Rui Patricio.
“If you ask me personally what I think about his overall performance [at Wolves] in all the phases of the game, I think it’s the best he’s played,” said Arteta.
“His contribution to those aspects was the best that he’s done and he needs to sustain that. When you have a moment in football when you’ve had to earn the right to play, you cannot lose it. You have to keep the basics right and keep doing what you’re doing. If not you know that someone else is going to be knocking at your door.”
The boss went on to admit that for all Pepe’s quality on the ball, he remains someone who needs clear instructions before being sent onto the pitch.
“I don’t know how much he wants them but he needs guidance and he needs clarity in what he needs to do. Then he needs the discipline on the pitch to do what he needs to do and obviously he needs the freedom in certain moments to express himself as a player. You cannot restrict that, for sure.”
Arsenal face Aston Villa this morning and Arteta faces a big decision. Who will he sacrifice to reintegrate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? The captain is available to start but his inclusion could come at the expense of Bukayo Saka, Alex Lacazette or Pepe, who has two goals in his last three games. A tough one.