Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe may have had his breakout moment on Thursday after scoring two tremendous free kicks to lead Arsenal to victory.
The two Pepe strikes off the bench helped Arsenal to a 3-2 win over Vitoria SC of Portugal, overcoming a 2-1 deficit and a performance that seemed heading towards defeat at home. It’s been a struggle for Pepe early on in London, as he admitted in an interview with the Telegraph, but things could be turning around as Pepe adjusts to life in the Premier League.
It certainly helped Arsenal and Pepe that Alexandre Lacazette returned from an siz-week ankle injury and played 75 minutes on Thursday, and with Pepe getting regular Premier League minutes with teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it’s only a matter of time before we see a Pepe-Laca-Auba trio up front, which could be a top-3 Premier League attack on paper.
“We have played very little together but we get on well, we are all French [speaking], Pepe said of Aubameyang and Lacazette. For us, it is to understand each other. I hope we will play more together.
“As soon as I arrived they [Lacazette and Aubameyang] helped me. I talked a lot to them. Matteo [Guendouzi] too. I also manage to talk to the other players because it is important to learn the language to communicate with everyone.
Later in the interview, Pepe added what could be the most important aspect of his adjustment: the trust and blessing of his manager, Unai Emery. The Spaniard has come under a lot of scrutiny this season with Arsenal struggling at both ends of the pitch, but Emery has never wavered in his faith of Pepe. In 12 matches for Arsenal so far, Pepe has three goals and three assists in all competitions, including the two against Vitoria. The speedy French-born, Ivory Coast International looks to finally be finding the confidence and form that made him one of the top goal scorers in Ligue 1 last season, and what helped him become a high profile transfer to Arsenal in the first place.
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger used to comment that it takes at least six months for a player to settle into the Premier League, so fans will have to stay patient as Pepe continues to adapt. However, with the breakneck speed of the Premier League, Pepe could be able to take his game to new heights.