Mikel Arteta has been encouraged by Nicolas Pepe’s reaction in the days after he was sent off in Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Leeds United.
The Gunners boss has made it clear that he plans on using the Ivorian winger in the club’s Europa League game against Norwegian side Molde on Thursday night. Pepe will miss the North London side’s next three Premier League games as a result of his red card and is likely to get a lot of game time in the Europa League.
Arteta was pleased with the way he apologised for his actions and understood his responsibility. The former Manchester City assistant manager is hoping for Pepe to put in a strong performance in tonight’s game against Molde.
The Arsenal manager made it clear that the former Lille winger’s poor judgement last weekend will not derail his career at the club. He has put his weight behind the player and insists that the 25 year old knows where he has to improve. Arteta accepted that while some responsibility lies with the player, a majority of the responsibility to make him shine lies with the Spaniard. He said that he could not fault the Ivory Coast international for the effort that he has been putting in to improve his game.
The Gunners invested a lot of money to bring Pepe to the Emirates and Arteta is hoping to help him find consistency by providing him with the best possible conditions to hone his skills.
On if this is the perfect time for Pepe to get straight back into the team, Arteta said:
“Yes, absolutely. We’ve all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. Even more with the way they play.”
“He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.”
On Pepe’s future, the Arsenal manager said:
“No, it’s absolutely not [the end of his Arsenal career after the red card]. It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement. I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities.”
“He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball. I cannot fault his effort at all. You see the way he strives for the team, the way he’s working, it’s been the best since he’s been at the club.”
“But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it’s a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career… it’s not at all like that.”
On getting the best out of Pepe, he said:
“Absolutely [it’s a joint-responsibility to get the best out of Pepe as a player]. The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot from him because he has this quality.”
“I said many times with the strikers and attacking players, it’s the most difficult thing to be consistent when you have to create, when you have to unlock the door, when you have to score goals or get assists. This is why he’s here and he needs to embrace this challenge, and go for it. We have to provide the best possible and ideal scenarios for him to be able to do that.”
On whether Pepe apologised to his teammates, Arteta said:
“Absolutely right, he did it. He did it personally and he did it publicly. That’s done. Let’s move on. We all make mistakes, we all make decisions when we are in the middle of the heat. It’s about the reaction, what we learn from it individually and as a team, and moving on. That’s it, we need to focus on the next game.”
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