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Arteta highlights 2 key factors behind Pepe’s improvement

Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal
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The Arsenal boss heaped praise on an improving Pepe after his crucial away goal against Villarreal in the Europa League.

Mikel Arteta has highlighted a ‘phenomenal’ work ethic and more consistency inside the final third as key factors behind Nicolas Pepe’s improved form.

Pepe dragged Arsenal back into contention in the 2-1 first-leg Europa League semi-final loss against Villarreal in Spain on Thursday by slotting home a penalty to ensure a vital away goal.

The Ivorian hasn’t always been able to justify his club-record €80 million transfer fee. But he has shown flashes of improvement recently, especially in the Europa League.

“I think he’s come a long way in the last few months,” Arteta told the club’s website.

“His work ethic has been phenomenal, and he’s deciding many more games and doing what he can do in the final third in a much more consistent way.

“So I’m really happy with his performances, and now he needs to continue like this.

“Confidence in every player is crucial and every time you step on that field, if they feel secure, if they feel protected, if they feel like they’re supported by their manager and their teammates, it’s something that is crucial to be able to perform.

“Then with the things that he could do better, he’s doing much better with as well. But it’s all a mix that is reflected in his performance.”

Pepe and Arsenal return to action on Sunday afternoon away to Newcastle United in the Premier League.