• Nicolas Pepe scored Arsenal's first goal in win against Southampton
  • Gunners boss Mikel Arteta didn't regret giving Pepe another chance
  • The Ivorian was criticized over poor form prior to the match

Nicolas Pepe has proven that he is still the big-name player Arsenal signed a few years ago.

The Gunners showed a tremendous display of team effort against Southampton on Tuesday at St. Mary’s Stadium. Mikel Arteta’s side thumped the home team, 3-1, with Pepe scoring an equalizer at the 8th minute.

After the decisive win, Arteta lauded his squad for being consistently remarkable from the start to finish.

“We were really good right from the start,” Arteta told BT Sport. “We conceded and reacted straight away. On the ball, we improved a lot. We got out of trouble and created chances. Our pressing was excellent. We managed the game when we went to 3-1 and were good on the break.”

Arteta then acknowledged Pepe, whom he thought was deserving of another “chance” and stressed that the Ivorian star alongside Gunners’ youngster Bukayo Saka put on a “strong performance.”

“It was a strong performance, Pepe was really good, he deserved his chance and took it,” the Arsenal boss assessed. “[Bukayo] Saka has been very consistent, we have played him in different positions but he has adapted really well. It was a really strong performance from him again today.”

Prior to the match, Pepe was criticized over lack of impact in Arsenal despite becoming the club’s record-breaking signing in 2019.

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith even warned Arteta of possibly dealing with another Mesut Ozil predicament in players like Pepe and Gunners’ summer signing Willian.

“He’s worked hard to get [Mesut] Ozil out of the club, but he will turn to Willian and Pepe now to get more out of these players,” Smith pointed out. “He’s [Pepe] in his second season now, it’s not like he is still adjusting to a new country and a new league. He’s one of those players that can produce a bit of magic but on other occasions, his football intelligence looks short.”

“You can throw the size of the transfer fee at him, that’s not his fault and nothing to do with him, but the fact remains that he’s a big signing and they spent a lot of money on him so they will hope he can come good,” he added.

Meanwhile, Arteta is well aware that Arsenal should not be too comfortable and is already looking forward to extending the team’s success against Manchester United.

“We still have a lot to do,” he assured. “Be humble, train good and prepare for the next game.”

Third time lucky: Mikel Arteta won his first game as Arsenal manager at the third time of asking
Third time lucky: Mikel Arteta won his first game as Arsenal manager at the third time of asking IKIMAGES / Ian KINGTON