Before Arsenal’s game against Newcastle United, Mikel Arteta challenged the club’s record signing to stand-up and be counted and that’s exactly what he did against Newcastle.
Ending the game with a goal and an assist, he was only denied the Man of the Match award because Bukayo Saka stole the show, but for a man who has regularly been described as a ‘flop’, Pepe isn’t doing too badly.
Moving to a new country in a new league where they speak a different language and have a completely different culture can be difficult for anyone and I wrote here why we shouldn’t be worried about Pepe.
Now, the Ivorian has four Premier League goals (one more than the lauded Wilfried Zaha) and five assists, more than any other Arsenal player this season.
“Pépé was a treat to watch,” wrote Jonathan Liew in the Guardian, and he was.
“We just need consistency from him,” Arteta said after the game. “The way he applied himself defensively as well, he was doing things he didn’t do in the past. He made the difference today.”
Liew also managed to capture the atmosphere at the Emirates with his article’s opening. “As the last few seconds of this game played out, as Arsenal knocked the ball around without inhibition and Newcastle chased them without conviction, a strange sensation seemed to descend on the Emirates Stadium,” he mused.
“You might call it, for want of a better word, satisfaction. Not happiness, as such: Arsenal don’t really do happiness. But the soft and sleepy contentment of a game well won, an afternoon without qualms or catastrophic injuries or late drama or existential angst: this was the unfamiliar part.”
It was indeed.