Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes Nicolas Pepe has come on leaps and bounds in recent months thanks to his “phenomenal” work ethic.
The winger has started to justify his £72million price tag for the Gunners this season, stepping up to score a vital away goal from the penalty spot against Villarreal in the Europa League on Thursday.
This took his tally for the season to 11 goals, and he is taking on an increasingly important role in the starting XI during the run-in.
In a youthful attack alongside the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard, Arteta believes Pepe is leading by example and “deciding many more games”.
The Gunners boss explained that a renewed sense of drive and motivation has helped bring about this change as he heaped praise on Pepe ahead of Sunday’s trip to Newcastle.
“I think he’s come a long way in the last few months,” said Arteta.
“His work ethic has been phenomenal and he’s deciding many more games and doing what he can do in the final third in a much more consistent way.
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“So I a really happy with his performances and now he needs to continue like this.
“Confidence in every player is crucial and every time you step on that field, if they feel secure, if they feel protected, if they feel like they’re supported by their manager and their team-mates, it is something that is crucial to be able to perform.
“Then with the things that he could do better, he’s doing much better with as well. But it’s all a mix that is reflected in his performance.”
Pepe will hope to continue his fine form as the Gunners travel to St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon aiming to lift themselves into the top half of the Premier League table.
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