Nicolas Pepe is showing much greater consistency and application in his performances, according to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal’s Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe runs with the ball during the UEFA Europa League 1st Round Group B football match between Arsenal and Rapid Vienna at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 3, 2020. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Nicolas Pepe, who had serious questions asked about his Arsenal future earlier in the campaign, but is now looking like one of the team’s key players in the big moments.

Pepe’s goal on Thursday was his seventh goal contribution in seven quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals with Arsenal. From the assists against Manchester City and Chelsea to the recent goals against Slavia Prague or Villarreal, he’s performing when it really matters.

The winger has outscored his debut season with the club, hitting 11 goals in 2020/21 so far – versus eight last campaign – and Mikel Arteta thinks he’s making great progress.

“I think he’s come a long way in the last few months,” Arteta said. “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 team-mates, 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.”

It will all count for very little if Arsenal are eliminated from the Europa League and finish mid-table, of course.

Pepe needs to maintain his current level starting with another goal or two next Thursday to make it to the final. But it’s good to see the Ivory Coast international is earning the trust of his manager now.