While it’s clear that Nicolas Pepe still has room for improvement, his 14 goals and five assists this season suggest he’s starting to settle in the Premier League.
After watching the Ivorian net an important brace in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, Mikel Arteta is optimistic that the winger will continue to develop and praised the player’s attitude when it comes to analysing his game.
Facing the media at Selhurst Park, he said: “I’m very encouraged and positive to think that way for two reasons.
“One, because he’s come a long way, in terms of consistency of what he’s producing in games. Not only in the Premier League but what he’s done in Europe this season.
“And the second one, because of his serious mindset. He wants to look at every action, he wants to look at every post-match reflection we do with him individually. He wants to work and he wants to be the best.
“And when that happens and he has the talent that he has, I think it’s a really good mixture.”
Having given the Gunners the lead in the first half, Pepe’s second strike of the evening proved to be the cherry on top of a very satisfying victory that was set up by Gabriel Martinelli’s stoppage-time goal.
Sent on as a late substitute, the Brazilian made a decisive impact and later said he’ll always be ready to answer the boss’ call.
The question posed to Arteta after the game was what the 19-year-old needs to do to get more starts.
After recovering from a knee injury, which sidelined him until mid-December, the 19-year-old striker has only played 835 minutes of football; the equivalent of nine full matches.
Arteta was bullish in his response: “He’s very close. He needs to keep fighting to be closer and closer.
“We need to understand where the boys are in the phase of their development and what they have done already this season and last season.
“I know that we want to play with 11 academy players under 20, but guys, who is doing that? We are doing more than anybody and they are going to have the chances, they are earning their chances, it’s not like we aren’t giving the chances.
“They are earning the chances and it’s a joy to have them with us.”