Rewind a few days and some Gunners fans were taking about beginning of the end of Nicolas Pepe’s career with the club. The Ivorian had just picked up a very silly red card against Leeds United, during his second Premier League start of the season.
Fortunately for the 25-year-old, Gunners are still in the midst of the Europa League group stage, so Nicolas Pepe will be able to play regularly during his three-match ban. His first chance to put things right was away to Molde on Thursday.
The left-footed winger certainly made good use the opportunity, winning Arsenal’s Man of the Match award and earning a nomination for the Europa League Player of the Week.
As Mikel Arteta said afterwards, ‘I am really pleased. Obviously after the disappointment, something negative, you want to see a reaction and to stand out really quickly.
‘I could see from the first minute, from his body language, that he was ready to act. I think he had a great performance.
‘He scored a goal, he could have scored another one or two. He created some great moments in the game and worked really hard for the team. I really liked it. I am really pleased with that.’
Pepe was certainly Arsenal’s biggest goal threat, taking six shots across the 90 minutes. He scored one for the opening goal, hitting the woodwork with another.
But the winger was also on form creatively. He made four chances, including one big chance, and completed 88% of his passes.
Perhaps just as importantly, the former Lille star’s dribbling stats were way up. He completed eight of 10 attempted dribbles, twice as many as he completed in the other three group stages game (four). He’s always at his best taking people on.
It’s one thing to do it against Molde, and quite another to do it in the English Premier League. But right now, this is the only option for Nicolas Pepe to redeem himself, so it’s a great start.