Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had praised the form of Nicolas Pepe and says the £72m signing has become a ‘real threat’ for his side.
Pepe has endured a difficult adaptation to the Premier League since moving to the Emirates in a club-record deal from Lille, failing to produce the performances that persuaded Arsenal into smashing their transfer record for his services.
There have been bright moments but the Ivorian has largely frustrated and struggled to win favour under Arteta this season, starting just seven Premier League fixtures during the current campaign.
However, there have been notable signs of improvement with two goals in his past three, whilst the winger now has seven goals and three assists across 15 starts in all competitions.
Pepe scored a fine individual goal during the defeat to Wolves in midweek and Arteta has discussed his recent improvement, praising the star for ‘working hard’ despite spending much of the campaign on the periphery.
“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,” Arteta told his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“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.”
Pepe’s position in the side will come under question this weekend following the return of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from compassionate leave, the forward having spent much of the season on the left of the Arsenal attack.
Arteta insists that his side will be picked on performances and not status, however, urging his players to keep ‘pushing each other to raise the level’.
“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.”