Mikel Arteta says Nicolas Pepe’s impact off the bench against Wolves underlines his belief that the Ivorian has returned from the African Cup of Nations a different player.
The winger produced a decisive swivel and finish to equalise 11 minutes after replacing Gabriel Martinelli and at the death provided the pass to Alex Lacazette whose strike was parried into the top corner by keeper Jose Sa.
Having backed the club’s record signing to have a strong end of the season in comments made earlier in the week, Arteta was delighted to see Pepe staking his claim for more football.
“I told you last week, I see a different Nico,” said the Spaniard in his post-game press conference.
“I don’t know, it’s his energy, his happiness, his all-round play, how he’s training, I was convinced that he could come in and do something for the team.
He added: “He’s on the right path and when you’re able to do that and contribute to the team, you’re going to get more minutes.
“The more minutes you have, you need to make the most out of them in training every single day and show what you can do. He has the ability to do it, that’s for sure.”
Last night’s three points help Arsenal climb up to fifth temporarily and put a little bit of breathing room between ourselves and last night’s opponents, as well as Sp*rs and West Ham. We also still have two games in hand on Manchester United who are just one point ahead in fourth place. With every win, the chances of securing a place in the Champions League increase.
“It pulled us a little bit closer,” reflected Arteta. “One game less and three points. 13 [ed – it’s actually 14] games to go, and now it’s about Watford.
“I think it’s about belief, that we should keep playing the way that we are playing – and keep insisting – and have that resilience and that capacity to dominate matches like we are doing right now…and then that’s the energy and (synergy) with our fans to create a special atmosphere. Where people don’t want to come and play against Arsenal.”
“Against the opponents that are up there in the table, it’s really, really important to win those matches, because at the end of the day it’s a six-point match.
“We’ve done it against them [Wolves] twice in the last 13 or 14 days and it is really important. This race is going to be a long one, and we should know that we have to be conscious of that.
“Now we have to prepare again, forget what we’ve done and start training and focus on Watford now.”
I’m delighted for Pepe. He makes things happen. Hopefully he’s rewarded for his efforts. Otherwise the confidence and enthusiasm that was no doubt gained from regular game time at AFCON will quickly be eroded by more bench time.
Plus, if he scores a few goals that do get us to the Champions League, we can maybe just about start to justify his price tag.
Wasn’t his price tag inflated from agent fees though? Kinda not his fault. I really like pepe, i feel he’s had a bit of a harsh time from fans. If we back him fully i think he can be a great player for us
I agree. No player should feel responsible for their price tag. It’s actually a sign that they’ve been very good at their job. But it is easy to forget just how toothless Pepe could be, stuck out on that right wing. And we used to make excuses and say he was stranded and wasn’t getting support. But then you put Saka out there and suddenly we are a different team. I think Pepe is a very good squad player to have around the team. And I’d love him to stay, sign a contract and be that bit of chaos for… Read more »
Completely agree. I think he can, and has been, an important goal threat but I’m not sure anyone can justify him staring ahead of Saka, ESR or Martinelli. All of whom have been more consistent than him.
I guess there could be certain matches that would suit him more (cant think of any atm) but the starting 11’s settled & working, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that at this point in the season.
Just because he’s coming off the bench doesn’t make his contribution any less important. Everyone’s gotta play their part.
The three mentioned have been played consistently good game or otherwise. Pepe gets a single not so good a game….. your guess is as good as mine.
I do think if we do the maths, Pepe has been more consistent and offered more end products in terms of goals and assists than all our other attackers per minutes of games played. May be wrong.
Last season Pepe had 16G/3A all comps. His end of season run– he was en fuego.
Maybe we get that Pepe again– these next few months?
He can appear adrift on the right wing, but often because our right backs don’t overlap. I think Arteta is giving our right backs more freedom to get forward these days however plus Odegaard often drifts out there, so I think that were he to play instead of Saka he would do really well there. Just not well as Saka… which is the problem!
Pepe basically had the goal and an assist. He displayed what he can produce, seemingly on a regular basis. He also got beat down the line pretty badly and after being beat without a full response chasing back to break up play due to his error. Arteta is trying to focus on the positives before the fans and press. I also bet he is in Pepe’s ear…” when you do “this” you are unstoppable. When you do “that” it makes you droppable.
100 % agreed
I’d like to see Pepe start on the right, Saka on the left, Laca/Gaby on the center. Could be interesting…..
And leave out ESR..?
Control yourself, Saka is way better on the right, Pepe played a good cameo last night and maybe will again next time out but that’s all he’s good enough for the last three years, he’s not a starter for me.
More than a cameo. The game completely changes when Pepe came on and I’m convinced there is a great deal more to come. Arguably the most underrated player we have and yes he should start far more matches.
Hey happy to be proved wrong but three years of him running it out of play or falling over himself isn’t going to change much and happy he’s only an impact sub.
When we’re challenging for 4 trophies next season I think he’ll be starting a fair few games 🙂
Martinelli, Saka and ESR offer more than Pepe all-round, either through pressing or through ball-retention (or both). Wolves were deep at the end of the game, not trying to do anything too expansive, while we were really pushing them to the edge of their box with overloads. It’s also notable that we had 4 other attackers on the pitch (Laca, Nketiah, Odegaard and Saka, all of whom are good pressers), along with Xhaka and Partey. That’s what kept Wolves penned in while also providing passing options and keeping the Wolves defenders occupied, which ultimately created those situations where Pepe can… Read more »
This is no chicken egg situation. The more minutes he gets the more goals we will see. However it is true that he is not focusing on defense and yesterday he left their LB to reach our area. Maybe this is why MA is not playing him
I think that was a combination of Ait Nouri being good and Pepe doing a bad action. Like he’d tracked him most the way and then for some reason decided to try and nick the ball off him, and Ait Nouri was like lol see ya later son, and then gave a good ball to Neto who I was expecting to score tbh.
It was good that Nico tracked him most the way, but man don’t dive in like that, just keep running next to him and try and block his pass.
I think your description is right. People say Pepe doesn’t track back or take his defensive responsibilities seriously, but I don’t think that’s been true for a very long time. It’s not lack of effort or commitment, it’s that he really doesn’t have a very good sense of how to defend. Usually, he can make up for this with effort and his pace–but he can be done by a skillful attacker.
Even overtake Ait-Nouri instead and halt his run. He’s got the pace to do that. Trying to nick the ball was a lazier version of what he really needed to do.
To be clear– not taking anything away from Nico today!
He was fab in the clutch.
I would play Pepe more now and rest either Gabi or Saka. Both show signs of a slight decline in form. Saka in particular is plagued by indecision in the box , where Pepe is more a Auba type.
Saka – 7 league goals and 4 assists
Auba – 4 league goals and 1 assist
I prefer Saka over Auba
Not having a dig but that’s Auba’s output in his last 2 games…
Saka is doing it for Arsenal though so that’s all that matters
No that’s not all that matters if you are genuinely comparing the players…which ofcourse is unfair to Saka..saka is not anywhere near Auba…human never be..Auba is exceptional
Auba struggled at Arsenal, missed sitters, and his general contribution was far too weak, there were clear signs of Auba’s decline, I love Auba and am super grateful for his contribution but without him scoring he’s a passenger, even Laca without goals is a better player based on his contribution to the team’s play. He may be doing ok for Barca but for 2 seasons he had failed us. Talking about him repeatedly is not going to rewind the clock. Saka is no Auba, Saka is a beter all round play anything else is just blind and clinging unto old… Read more »
Doesn’t hurt Auba’s game one bit playing against second-tier CBs in La Liga either.
Was exceptional up until he wasn’t anymore for us so don’t sugarcoat it.
Your preference is based on one half of a season, right? Push the line a little bit backwards and the picture changes.
I love Saka… and ESR; but can they do it season after season? Only time will tell.
Very odd characterisation of Saka, given his goal and chance creation contribution, including his finish against Brentford.
Until Pepe contributes better defensively he’s ok on the bench and right now I will not choose him over Saka or ESR or Gabi, granted Gabi is struggling at the moment.
Some players are not great defensively and it is not for want of trying. Even at his peak you could see that Ozil was never happy defending. I want to see Pepe start more games as he showed exactly what he can offer as he did last night.
I’ve heard this about Saka recently but I honestly can’t see what ppl are talking about.
As usual, I think his performances have been insanely consistent. In terms of running at the opposition, picking out a cross, cutting in & having a shot, positional sense & defending I can’t think of another player in the side that does all of those things as consistently.
I know it feels as though he’s been around for ages now but for someone his age to maintain such a high level is pretty outstanding.
Sure, pepe is more soon similar to Auba so play him up front from time to Time he’s most fan dangerous in central positions. But come on. Saka is outstanding outstanding. He’s the most talented player on this roster and showing it.
Pepe has some great qualities as well as some things that let him down sometimes.
I think he can have a big impact at the end of the season, look forward to him terrorising defences and scoring a few.
I like him to Walcott and Podolski (each with different strengths) in that each had obvious flaws but each produced plenty of end product. Even if he’s not a regular starter he’s got to be in the mix a lot more than he has been.
Same Pepe all along if you ask me, but I’m not going to split hairs with the manager over this.
Fact is, he is a damned good player and whatever has happened in the past is irrelevant now; it’s what he did for the team last night and what he can offer for the remainder of this season that’s the all important thing.
On his day he can destroy defences and score goals with incredible vision and lethal execution.
I hope he’s back for good.
Think they’re changing the narrative around him and putting him front and centre in the shop window.
It would be a shame if he left.
When he takes the field the endless horseshoe goes out of the window and we actually start attacking properly.
I think AFCON really helped Pepe – playing regularly scoring a couple and assisting. Yesterday as an impact sub he basically won us the game. More of that please!
Pepe’d come good. I just know it.
Pepe has always been a cool and calm finisher in the box. That price tag and expectations that came with aside, his problem seemed to be that he was not on the same wavelength with rest of the team. At least for me the feeling was that he was doing his own thing away from everyone else. If he finds the sync with rest of the team (and I guess Arteta is alluding to the same), we might see an all new Pepe – like a new signing!
It was interesting listening to Roberto Martinez post-match, who was saying that if you watch Zaha & Nico play for the Ivory Coast they play with freedom, and arrogance and are really good. I think it’s easier for Zaha in the Prem because he’s Palace’s best player, and…I don’t mean this in a mean way, but he place for Palace, so as their best player he can basically do what he wants. Nico was probably more like this when he was at Lille, whereas when he arrived to us he was some way from being our best player, and then… Read more »
I’ve always liked Pepe and I know a lot of gunners fans that feel the same. The price tag was always going to be a problem, but that’s not his fault. Quality player that just needs to be played in the right position and given a clear role.
Honestly I don’t really think anything is different with Pepe. He has come off the bench to change the game before. Most notably against Vitoria Guimaraes, Spurs, Sheffield Utd, Slavia and West Ham. Like any other footballer, he just needs consistent stretches of game time to find a rhythm. I don’t know much about his personal life as he (rightly) keeps it private but he’s not new to fatherhood and is actually expecting a second child with his wife soon. Maybe Nico really is behaving differently behind the scenes but I suspect Arteta is just trying to motivate the player… Read more »
Pepe has perked up because he actually got to play some football. I never quite understood why Pepe is regularly frozen out when he is the best finisher in the club.
He is not playing because his defensive game is atrocious…but improving..also his interplay is not great..but again improving..he was a gamble. We should see in the next six months whether it was a good gamble or not….I suspect he is going to come good …very good
I don’t think it is his defensive weakness. He is a player who likes to cut in, obviously, rather than stay outside, but he often does it in ways that conflict with the spaces other players (Odegaard now) are in. My guess is that this is the improvement Arteta sees on the training ground–a better ability to mesh with his fullback and the central midfielders.
I love watching him play but we’ve just got more well-rounded & consistent players in his position(s).
Definite goal threat but there’s other aspects of the game that Saka, ESR, Martinelli & Laca all do better.
Now he has to played to help raise his profile as he will be sold in the summer or sent on loan.
Happy for Pepe I hope he gets better and better and be an important player for us.. Him coming as an impact sub or starting for the team so far as he scored or assist and give a good performance I am okay with it. If he will come on like he did changing the game and getting us 3points I love it. A big win and giant step to securing top 4, never die mentality let’s goooo. Watford we coming for you.
I have always believed in Pepe, sure he hasnt been perfect BUT the lack of confidence in him from the coach and game time made it really hard for him to even try and justify his pricetag. But he definitely has that top quality stuff..
Can’t Pepe turn into a RVP ?
Pepe is Arsenal’s most dangerous player around the opposition box at the moment.
The confidence to execute the equaliser yesterday underscores that fact.
Meanwhile, I’d like to know if any team has had up to 6 left footers on the pitch at the same time since the inception of the EPL.
It seemed strange to see Gabriel, Tierney(Tavares), Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka and Pepe all on the pitch.
It might have been what the Wolves defence found difficult to handle.
Delightful turn & finish (& just generally great when he was on the pitch) but I’d still say ESR is our most dangerous player around the opposition box.
If you compare by playing time Pepe is our most dangerous player in terms of goals and assists.
True, he’s had very little playing time but I think there’s a reason for that. He’s lovely to watch going forward but he doesn’t play anywhere as well as Laca, ESR, Saka or Martinelli off the ball. If he did, I’d be the first person calling for him to start over the rest. As it is, ESR is still our most dangerous player imo.
Pepe is very possibly now the best finisher at the club, all his best work tends to come inside the box as well. Maybe time to give him some opportunities centrally?
Btw, I think he is also an exceptional penalty taker. But the chance that Arsenal get a penalty is pretty low. And the chance that Arsenal get a penalty in the few minutes Pepe is on the pitch is like Leicester winning the league. It can happen, but only every three or four decades.
Hope the ref for the Watford game has his eyes open this time around, they came to kick us last time out, how Danny Rose stayed on the pitch is anyone’s guess.
pepe is an output guy. We need output.
No doubt about it – if he’s on the pitch, he will likely stack the numbers up. The modern game demands more than just output though. In the past (Even ~10 years ago), teams could live with a specialist. But with the press of the modern game, it is a problem for players like Pepe. Note that a lot of his goals / assists before Arsenal came in a counter-attacking, running at people kind of situation, which we just don’t see as often in the PL. My personal sense is that his lethal left foot can be put to great… Read more »
Good stuff. We all the numbers available with the size of our squad. Well in Nico!!!!!!
The manager is making all the right noises but team work and high level of concentration will take the gunners to Europe where they belong.
On this, I trust Zero of what MA says. Double speak at best for me. A different player given 19min. Really? That’s for the press.
I hope we don’t end up keeping him because he scored a goal yesterday.
Nico Pepe has 47 goal contributions in 103 appearances with us since joining in 19/20. He contributes to goals in 45% of his appearances. That is encouraging considering that Arteta feels there is a lot more to come from him. His talent offers us something very unique and dangerous. If he’s starting to fully understand how to consistently bring his best in Arteta’s system, that is great for the club.
He usually scores or assists. He scored AND assisted – why is he not a bigger part of the story of that game? What else do I want as a KPI for a £70m player? He turned the whole game around and kept us in position. That’s literally his job. We want structure do we? Chasing back? Does it mean Arteta would bench prime Luis Suarez because he ONLY scored? FML
After such nice words we sold AMN…
My thinking. Then the manager will become the solution.
So happy for Pepe, I like the lad so much. With more minutes under his belt, he might just be the spark we need in tight games like the one against Wolves the other day.
Scoring goals off the bench is really not new for Pepe?