‘Pepe wants to be the best’ – Arteta hails winger but win over Crystal Palace not enough for Arsenal

The Ivorian scored twice as the Gunners beat Roy Hodgson’s side 3-1 at Selhurst Park

Mikel Arteta hailed Nicolas Pepe after the Ivory Coast international scored twice as Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 3-1 on Wednesday night.

The victory was not enough to keep the Gunners’ hopes of qualifying for the Europa League alive, with sixth-placed West Ham’s 3-1 win at West Brom meaning it is now impossible for Arteta’s side to finish any higher than seventh this season.

But Arteta was still full of praise for Pepe, who struck in either half as the Gunners made it four successive wins in the Premier League.

Pepe has now scored six goals in his last 10 appearances and, when asked if the winger was starting to show signs of reaching his true potential in an Arsenal shirt, Arteta said: “I am very encouraged and positive for two reasons.

“One, because he has come a long way in terms of consistency and what he’s producing in games. Not in the Premier League, but what he’s done in Europe this season.

“And the second one because he’s changed his mindset. He wants to look at every mindset, he wants to look at every post-match reflection that we do with him.

“Individually he wants to work and he wants to be the best. When that happens and he has the talent that he has, I think it’s a really good mixture.”

Pepe has come a long way

Pepe’s double against Crystal Palace took his goal tally for the season to 14 in all competitions.

That is six more than he managed during his debut campaign in England and Arteta believes his winger is now showing the type of form that convinced Arsenal to break their transfer record to bring him to the club from Lille in 2019.

“It’s my feeling and it’s everybody’s feeling in the coaching staff, and his own feeling, that he’s come a long way this season,” said the Arsenal boss.

“He hasn’t had the consistency sometimes in the game time, but I think in Europe he’s been terrific and in the Premier League he’s started to show much more what he’s like, and he’s very hungry. 

“I think he’s changed a lot in his mentality and his willingness to do much more.”

Where do Arsenal stand going into Sunday?

Arsenal’s victory at Crystal Palace saw them move to within one point of seventh-placed Tottenham, but West Ham’s victory at West Brom means it is now impossible for Arteta’s side to qualify for the Europa League next season.

That means their only way into Europe is by finishing seventh and qualifying for UEFA’s new competition, the Europa Conference League.

To do that, the Gunners must beat Brighton on Sunday and hope Tottenham and Everton drop points in their games against Leicester and Manchester City respectively.