The winger scored a wonderful goal against Dundalk but also frustrated in Arsenal’s 3-0 win
Mikel Arteta acknowledges Nicolas Pepe must be more consistent, but the Arsenal manager does not question the winger’s attitude and is keen to help.
Pepe was a club-record signing from Lille in August 2019 yet struggled to translate his dominant Ligue 1 form to the Premier League last term.
The Ivory Coast international’s first campaign in England brought just five league goals, having netted 22 times in his final year in France.
Pepe showed a flash of his talent on Thursday, netting a fine strike in the 3-0 Europa League win over Dundalk, his second of the new season in all competitions.
But that was the only one of his five shots to hit the target, while the 25-year-old created just a single chance and completed none of his three dribbles. Pepe’s crossing – at 16.67 per cent accuracy – was also particularly wasteful.
Arteta was asked if the pressure of the player’s price tag could be a problem but said: “Knowing Nico, I don’t think it’s something that worries him too much.
“It’s about him hitting his best, every single week. I believe this is where he believes he can do better and we have to try to help him.
“I think he’s so willing to do well and show everybody and first of all his team-mates, myself and then the fans that he’s a player that can make the difference every week.
“Obviously, he’s not been first choice in a lot of games but, to be fair, he’s played quite a lot of moments better than others.
“It’s about finding the consistency, not through the games but during the games as well, to be more insistent and be able to do the right thing in many, many occasions when he has to make the right decisions on the pitch.
“It’s nothing to do with his attitude. He’s a player who takes risks and he’s a very creative player, and it’s the most difficult thing in football when they all know what you can do as well, how much they want to prevent the space, the overloads that they generate to defend you, so creating a situation as well is complicated.
“But sometimes, it’s the simple things – the deliveries, the amount of situations that he’s able to create or attract and then make the right decision, to keep evolving that phase of play, the finishing, the position inside the box – that he has to be more consistent at.
“We are working on that and hopefully he will be doing that much more efficiently.”
The left-footed Pepe has been accused of being one-dimensional but scored Thursday’s goal on his right side.
“It is nothing to do with me,” Arteta added. “That was his action, he scored a magnificent goal. He’s been [unpredictable] a little bit more recently, going down the outside is something he can do.
“It’s just about when he attracts people as well and frees something, the last pass, the last delivery, which foot he needs to attack of the defender sometimes as well to make things easier for him, the starting position sometimes is not right.
“But he’s trying really hard, he’s a player who loves to play the game and we need to give him more help to try to be more successful.”
Having started just once in the league this season, Pepe must now hope he has done enough to win a place in the Gunners XI at Manchester United this weekend.
“They are always in the frame to play,” Arteta said of his Europa League stars. “It’s not because we lose or win, it’s what they bring to the team, how they train, what they are showing.
“Results, at the end, are consequences of many things, but individually how they do things is what determines whether they have the opportunity to play or not.”