Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes forward Nicolas Pepe has “come a long way” after an inconsistent start to his Gunners career.

Pepe signed for the Premier League giants in 2019 for £72m from Lille in France’s Ligue 1 but had a difficult start to his career in England as he was always critiqued on the basis of his transfer fee.

The Ivory Coast international who is still only 25 years old, was previously described by Arteta as a “free spirit” who “needed guidance”. The Ivorian has turned over a new leaf, however, having scored 14 goals in all competitions this season.


Nicolas Pepe celebrates scoring with fellow African teammates – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Elneny (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“He wants to work and he wants to be the best,” Arteta said.

“When that happens and he has the talent that he has, I think it’s a really good mixture.”

When asked if Pepe had now settled, Arteta said: “I’m very encouraged and positive to think that way for two reasons.

“One, because he’s come a long way, in terms of the consistency of what he’s producing in games. Not only in the Premier League but what he’s done in Europe this season.

“And the second one, because of his serious mindset. He wants to look at every action, he wants to look at every post-match reflection we do with him individually.”

Pepe had six goals in the Europa League and has eight in the Premier League this season, including two in a 3-1 victory against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Arsenal are still in contention to qualify for the newly-formed Europa Conference League, but need a win against Brighton on Sunday. They need to then also depend on Tottenham and Everton dropping points to gain a seventh-place finish and feature next season in the third division of European club football.