Mikel Arteta has proclaimed that he has witnessed a change in Nicolas Pepe after the Ivory Coast winger returned from his spell at the Africa Cup of Nations where he scored twice in four games. Pepe has failed to replicate his form from last season as he looks to make a comeback into the squad.
The 26-year-old has made 101 appearances for the Gunners while scoring 26 goals across all competitions.The Arsenal winger produced his best spell of performances since his move during the closing weeks of the 2020/21 season when he struck eight goals in the last 11 games.
The former Lille winger has struggled to build on that since the start of the current campaign as he has only scored just twice in all competitions. Pepe enjoyed a fine run of form for his homeland in the AFCON as he scored two goals in four games before his side crashed out of the competition.
Arsenal boss Arteta has revealed that he has been surprised by the change in demeanor from Pepe and backed him to make an impact as he looks to make an appearance for Arsenal since October.
“Since he has come back, I have seen a different Nico. I don’t know what it is, probably he has realised the importance of the end of the season for him. His attitude, his smile, the way he is communicating with everybody, his energy. The way he has trained. His efficiency in training. His application,” Arteta told reporters in a press conference.
“His energy has changed. I think he felt important again. Probably he felt like a proper football player that can win tournaments and felt ‘ok, this is me now’. He needed that and I’m really pleased with that,” he added.