Mikel Arteta has given Nico Pepe a public backing after the Ivorian got himself sent off in the match against Leeds. Although initially incensed, Arteta has chosen to forgive the winger and he has backed him to bounce back.
Ahead of our clash against Molde, Arteta said: “We’ve all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. Even more with the way they play.
“He [Pepe] had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.”
Asked if the 25-year-old had apologised privately, he added: “Absolutely right, he did it. He did it personally and he did it publicly. That’s done. Let’s move on. We all make mistakes, we all make decisions when we are in the middle of the heat. It’s about the reaction, what we learn from it individually and as a team, and moving on. That’s it, we need to focus on the next game.”
When it was suggested that Pepe’s Arsenal career might have a level of uncertainty, the boss was quick to dismiss the notion.
“No, it’s absolutely not [the end of his Arsenal career after the red card]. It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement. I will give Nico my full support all the time.
“He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities. He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball. I cannot fault his effort at all.
“You see the way he strives for the team, the way he’s working, it’s been the best since he’s been at the club. But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability.
“That’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it’s a threat for him to finish his [Arsenal] career… it’s not at all like that.”
Arteta also stated that getting the best out of Pepe isn’t down to the winger alone. But it is also his job as manager to get the best out of the Ivorian.
“Absolutely [it’s a joint-responsibility],” said the boss. “The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot from him because he has this quality.
“I said many times with the strikers and attacking players, it’s the most difficult thing to be consistent when you have to create, when you have to unlock the door, when you have to score goals or get assists.
“This is why he’s here and he needs to embrace this challenge, and go for it. We have to provide the best possible and ideal scenarios for him to be able to do that.”