Mikel Arteta identifies where Nicolas Pepe must improve after Arsenal beat Dundalk

Nicolas Pepe scores for Arsenal against Dundalk in the Europa League
Nicolas Pepe scored a brilliant third goal for Arsenal against Dundalk (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta brushed off suggestions that Nicolas Pepe could be feeling the weight of his club-record price tag after Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Dundalk but admitted the forward has to be more consistent and improve the ‘simple things’ in his game.

Pepe has made just one start in the Premier League this season, Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester City earlier this month, but was given a chance to impress in Thursday night’s Europa League Group B clash at the Emirates.

The 25-year-old seized his opportunity in a team largely made up of fringe players and added to first-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock with an unstoppable strike past Gary Rogers just seconds after the break.

Nicolas Pepe runs with the ball in Arsenal's clash with Dundalk
Pepe has shown flashes of brilliance since his £72m move from Lille (Picture: Getty)

Pepe has now been directly involved in six goals in his last eight appearances for the Gunners in the Europa League.

However, Pepe has flattered to deceive for much of his stay in north London and some have suggested the Ivorian could be struggling with the expectation and burden that comes with such a hefty price tag.

Asked whether Pepe may be feeling the pressure of his £72million transfer fee at his post-match press conference, Arteta replied: ‘I don’t think he’s got that.

‘I think he’s so willing to do well and show everybody, first of all his team-mates, myself and 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 the games at the moment but, to be fair, he’s played quite a lot of moments, some better than others.

‘It’s about finding the consistency, not just through the games but during the games as well to be able to do the right things in many occasions when he has to make the right decisions on the pitch.’

Mikel Arteta and Nicolas Atreta look on in Arsenal Training Session
Arteta insists Pepe is not concerned about his hefty price tag (Picture: Getty)

Arteta added: ‘It’s nothing to do with his attitude.

‘He’s a player that takes risks, he’s a very creative player and that’s the most difficult thing in football, when they all know what you can do. How much they want to prevent the space, the overloads they create to defend you as well and creating situations from that 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.

‘He has to be more consistent. We are working on that and hopefully he will be doing that much more efficiently.

‘Knowing Nico and after speaking to him, I don’t think it’s (his price tag) is something that worries him too much. It’s about him hitting his best every single week.

‘This is where he believes he can do better and we have to try to help him.’

Arsenal FC v Dundalk FC: Group B - UEFA Europa League
Nketiah and Willock also got on the scoresheet against Dundalk (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal take on an in-form Manchester United side this weekend and Arteta admitted some of his more peripheral players had made selection ‘difficult’ with their performances against Dundalk.

‘We have a large squad and I wanted to give opportunities to everybody,’ he explained.

‘There were players that have been really patient and training well and today they showed they are well prepared when we need them. Today they made things more difficult for me for selection.

‘Sometimes when they don’t play it’s not something that they can do more., it’s because we have to choose players and sometimes we go for something else.

‘Sometimes it’s about the quality, sometimes it’s about the tactical plan that we have for the game but I’m very pleased for the performance and how they reacted today.’

The Spaniard continued: ‘After losing the way we lost against Leicester, it was painful at home and took us a few days to digest that defeat.

‘But you have to react straightaway with a win, with this type of attitude and let’s get ready.

‘We go to Old Trafford and we try to win again.’

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