Thursday Feb 18, 2021. 10:00
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been impressed by the progress made by winger Nicolas Pepe, 25, in recent weeks.
The Ivory Coast international has scored two goals in his last four Premier League starts for the Gunners and will be hoping to continue his fine run of form in the Europa League on Thursday evening.
Pepe, who arrived at Emirates Stadium after Arsenal paid Lille a club-record amount of £72 million in 2019, has scored three and assisted the same amount of goals in six Europa League matches this season.
Arsenal will face Portuguese giants Benfica in a Round of 32 first-leg tie at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Thursday, hoping to build on their 4-2 win over Leeds United last weekend.
“The fact that we have the Europa League gave the opportunity to almost everyone in the squad to be fit and available and compete for their place,” Arteta said as reported by Goal.com.
“[Pepe] has had some really good matches and scored some important goals as well and I think that has helped him for the Premier League form and the recent form that he’s shown.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, in his mentality, the way he approaches every training session, in his understanding of the game as well.
“It’s true that he has patches where he’s played more than at other times. He has had the opportunity over the last couple of months that probably every player has been seeking to have but I think overall there is a lot of progress with Nico,” he concluded.