Arsenal boss ‘very pleased’ with his £72m man ahead of Canaries clash
- Credit: PA
Nicolas Pepe was a shining light for Arsenal in their FA Cup win against Sheffield United but head coach Mikel Arteta is calling for the club’s record signing to be more consistent ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Norwich City.
Pepe has impressed since football resumed this month, scoring a superb goal in the Premier League defeat to Brighton before his penalty at Bramall Lane on Sunday set the Gunners on their way to the FA Cup semi-finals.
The 25-year-old Ivory Coast international forward’s spot-kick in the 2-1 victory was his eighth goal of the season since his £72million arrival from Lille last summer, with the tie settled by a late strike from Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos.
Arteta said: “It’s very important to try and understand a player and find out what his feelings are, how hard it’s been to adapt to a new country and a language that he doesn’t understand.
“I don’t know him from before, but he is very willing and he is a player with incredible potential. However, he needs to take care of moments in the game when he disconnects himself a little bit. He cannot do that, and I will be very persistent with him to try to change that.
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“He also needs to be decisive in every game because if he is at his best he is a player who can make the difference.
“There are things to work on and improve but he is heading in the right direction. He is doing things very well too, like realising what he needs to do for the team when we don’t have the ball. I am very pleased with him.”
Pepe remained on the bench as the Gunners twice had to fight back to draw 2-2 at Carrow Road in December, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice to cancel out leads provided to City by Teemu Pukki and Todd Cantwell.
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Norwich go into the game on the back of a valiant 2-1 home loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday and will be without centre-back Timm Klose due to a red card during that game, with Alex Tettey set to drop into defence as Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmermann are already out injured.
That followed back-to-back league defeats to Everton and Southampton since the Premier League restarted, leaving the Canaries bottom and six points from safety.
Arsenal lost their first two games as well, 3-0 at Manchester City and 2-1 at Brighton, but won 2-0 at Southampton on Friday to lift themselves to ninth and keep hopes of European qualification alive at the end of a tumultuous season, which saw Unai Emery sacked in November after a run of seven games without a win.
They are nine points adrift of Wolves in fifth - which could be a Champions League qualification place if Manchester City’s ban from Europe is upheld - and six adrift of Manchester United in sixth.