Unai Emery decided Nico Pepe would start from the bench yesterday but it was the Ivorian that came on to serve a masterclass that won us the game. The coach was happy and full of praise for the record signing after the match.
Arsenal went into half time, losing 1-2 after Victoria had scored two goals either side of Gabi Martinelli’s header. The introduction of Guendozi and Ceballos at half time raised the speed of the game for us, but it was the introduction of our record signing that proved the most important as he scored two free kick goals under ten minutes to secure the three points.
Emery suggested that the goals would go a long way in boosting Pepe’s confidence in front of goal.
“Every player, usually, they need time to adapt,” he said.
“Pepe is a very good player and we believe in him, totally. The way he’s going, sometimes he feels better, sometimes it’s with more difficulty on the pitch. It depends on the opponent.
“He’s improving and tonight those two goals are really important for us first, and then secondly for him. He’s continuing the adaptation in his process and as soon as he can adapt, that’s better for us.”
On the goals, he added: “We are very happy for him and for us because those two goals, from two set-pieces, were perfect.
“He was trying a lot of set-piece shooting on the training ground last week and I was watching his shooting, because I was also positive in that situation when we can have players like Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ceballos or others to shoot.
“The most important thing is the three points and that some individual players can improve, that they can take confidence for us and for them.”
Yet again, Mesut Ozil didn’t make the match day squad to play the game. When quizzed about the situation, he had this to say.
“Tonight is not the day to speak about that,” he said, before twice more turning down questions on the subject.
“I prefer to speak about the match. We have all the players who played,” he added. “He’s not in the squad. That is the decision tonight. Now we are going to work towards Sunday.”
It appears the relationship between the German and the Spaniard is not going to get better anytime soon, as he refused to be drawn to the topic or discuss it an further.