Arsenal’s Pepe to get Europa League chance
- Credit: PA
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will hand Nicolas Pepe the chance for a swift redemption in the Europa League tie at Molde on Thursday.
Ivory Coast forward Pepe is facing up to a three-match domestic ban following a red card against Leeds, after appearing to headbutt Ezgjan Alioski.
The Gunners boss branded Pepe’s behaviour “unacceptable” following Sunday’s goalless draw at Elland Road.
Arteta, though, rejected suggestions the 25-year-old – a record £72million signing from Lille in August 2019 – would be frozen out of his plans.
“We have all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers,” the Arsenal manager said ahead of the Europa League tie in Norway, where his team could secure qualification for the knockout stage.
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“Obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference,
“He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team.”
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Arteta added: “No, it is absolutely not (the end of his Arsenal career after the red card). It’s not about that and I don’t like that type of statement.
“I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities.
“He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball.
“I cannot fault his effort at all. You see the way he strives for the team, the way he’s working, it’s been the best since he’s been at the club.
“But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That’s where I’m going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it’s a threat for him to finish his (Arsenal) career, it is not at all like that.
“He has reacted the right way after that (sending off) and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week.
“It is in his hands. He is a player I really like, that I know what he can give, and it is completely up to him.”
Arsenal defender David Luiz has travelled to Norway after missing the Leeds game following the birth of his daughter.
However, Bukayo Saka and Willian both picked up injuries at Elland Road, so will be assessed ahead of Sunday’s Premier League home game against Wolves.
Arsenal will secure qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League with what would be a fourth successive Group B win.
Arteta, though, warned against complacency.
“They made it difficult for us in the first leg and on an artificial pitch, it becomes different,” he added.
“Molde are very dominant in the (Norwegian) league obviously and are so used to winning football matches. I expect them to have a real go.
“They were aggressive when they played against us in certain phases of our play, were organised, good on the counter-attack and set-pieces as well.
“We want to be there, win the game and we know that will give us the qualification.”