'Could be an exceptional player': Adams impressed by progress of Arsenal's 25-year-old ace

Nathaniel Kay March 1, 2021
'Could be an exceptional player': Adams impressed by progress of Arsenal's 25-year-old ace
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal legend Tony Adams was impressed by the influential performance of Nicolas Pepe in the Gunners’ 3-1 win over Leicester City yesterday, speaking on Stadium Astro.

Victory at the King Power Stadium was the perfect end of an excellent week for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Arsenal battled their way past Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday and moved into the Premier League top ten after overcoming Leicester.

Praise for Pepe

Although Pepe sat out the 3-2 win in Greece for the Gunners’ (home) tie, the Ivory Coast international was pivotal to his side’s win yesterday.

The 25-year-old looked full of confidence all afternoon and rewarded Arteta’s trust via a fine individual display.

Pepe finished off a fine Arsenal move shortly after half-time to put the result to bed.

And former Arsenal captain Adams wanted to congratulate Pepe for his contribution after admitting the Ivorian is a player he has had concerns about in the past.

Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

“I was critical of (Pepe) at first,” Adams admitted.

“Why did we need this player in the first place? Putting a massive price tag on him when we’ve got good kids coming through.

“Hopefully he’s put my criticism to bed. He’s put a performance in and that’s what he might need to give himself a bit of a spark.”

Adams said Pepe’s performance against Leicester could be the turning point in what has been an unsatisfying start to his Arsenal career.

Adams said: “The longer it goes in the Europa League, (Pepe) is going to get more opportunities to play. Who knows, next season he could be an exceptional player for us.

“It’s going to do him the power of good. He had an opportunity today. If it didn’t happen for him, everyone would have gone ‘Saka’s on the bench. Arteta you’ve made a massive mistake here. You’ve blown it.’  

“But the manager’s great and Pepe’s great today, so well played.”

Starting to justify his price tag

Keeping everyone happy in the Arsenal ranks has been one of Arteta’s main problems.

With the emergence of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, plus the loan signing of Martin Odegaard, Arteta’s attacking options look impressive.

Pepe, meanwhile, is enjoying a quietly productive season, all things considered.

His strike against Leicester was the Ivorian’s eighth in all competitions, equalling the tally he achieved for the whole of last season.

Having been bought for a club-record fee of £72 million (BBC Sport) from Rennes two years ago, great things were expected of the tricky winger.

Now, it looks as though Pepe might be starting to pay back some of that huge fee.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.