‘No excuses’: Arteta backs Pépé to shine at Arsenal after change in mindset

Nick Ames
<span>Photograph: Martin Divíšek/EPA</span>
Photograph: Martin Divíšek/EPA

Mikel Arteta says he has detected a change in Nicolas Pépé’s mindset and the forward would have “no excuses” when looking to explain any inconsistency in future.

Pépé has been in and out of Arteta’s side having largely frustrated since joining from Lille in a £72m transfer under the previous manager, Unai Emery. But he has scored 10 goals this season, two in the 5-1 aggregate Europa League quarter-final win over Slavia Prague that confirmed a reunion with Emery in the last four, and Arteta will accept nothing less than a full exhibition of his undoubted ability from here on.

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“I think he needed to do that, yes,” he said when asked whether Pépé’s mentality had changed recently. “He needed a period of adaptation and that is gone now. So we cannot rely on adaptation again: now it is about performance and he can do it.

“He has got the players to support him, a manager that trusts him, he has got all the staff that are willing to help him and all the teammates who really like him because he is a really likable character, so there are no excuses.”

Pépé, who could start against Fulham at the Emirates on Sunday, has also made five assists and created 40 chances in 2020-21. “He needs to have the right mindset and consistency to do what he can do,” Arteta said. “Because that is the level we are going to ask of him, the level I am asking of him. If it is something below that, he is not going to play but if he does what he can do he will have a big chance to play because he has incredible ability.”

Arsenal’s forward options will be stretched until Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been recovering from malaria and is unlikely to face Scott Parker’s side, is fully fit. “Let’s see how he recovers,” Arteta said. “Obviously when you get a disease like this it can take a bit for the body to feel in good condition to the extreme condition we put the body through in our sport. But he wants to come back very quickly.”