Nicolas Pepe has been a lightning rod since his £72million mega-move from Lille in the summer of 2019.
Signed as the final piece in Arsenal ’s front-three, many hoped he would be the man to really kickstart a title challenge in north London.
However, after netting almost once every other game in France, Pepe’s contribution at Arsenal has been decidedly lower.
The Ivory Coast international has been in and out of the line up, both under Unai Emery and his successor Mikel Arteta.
Emery claimed that it was against his wishes to sign the 25-year-old, with his preference being Wilfried Zaha.
The start of this campaign saw most of his Premier League chances come from the bench, amid growing criticism of his on-field performances.
Arsenal legend Robert Pires claimed that Pepe would need to change his mentality to have a chance, but suggested he is “simply not cut out for English football”.
“His game doesn’t suit the intensity and demands of the Premier League,” he said last week.
“Pepe wasn’t used to it and it has been complicated for him to change his mentality, to adapt to a new way of training and to settle in a tough league.
“I think he is simply not cut out for English football.”
But after starting the majority of games from the bench, Arteta has now started him for the last three, including tonight’s trip to Wolves.
He was on the scoresheet against Southampton, with the Gunners boss opting to start him on the left in absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“It was more because of what we wanted to do in attack and the spaces we wanted to exploit,” Arteta said, after beating the Saints.
“We believed that he could exploit some spaces there and he could be really efficient in doing that.
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“I thought that the other day he had a good game and was involved in our best attacking moments, and the way he’s been training he deserved his chance. Today [on Monday] he did the job really well.”
Pepe kept his place for the draw with Manchester United, where he put in another lively performance.
And it’s not just his work going forward that is earning plaudits. In his last three matches, he has won 22 ground duels, seven aerial duels, four interceptions and four clearances. A clear sign of progression in his work off the ball.
He will now be hoping to continue his resurgence against the struggling Wolves and continue to prove Pires wrong
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