Sport Mikel Arteta: Nicolas Pepe must improve his Arsenal consistency
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Mikel Arteta has warned Nicolas Pepe he has no more excuses now to justify his £72million price tag after an upturn in form for the Ivorian winger.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a good few weeks in north London, scoring in both of Arsenal's Europa League quarter-final legs over Slavia Prague and has started in eight out of the Gunners' last 12 league matches since the end of January.
Arteta admitted that Pepe has needed time to adjust to life at Arsenal but the Gunners boss admitted that the winger's recent form means he must now show the consistency required to stay as a regular star.
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Mikel Arteta's side were wasteful and missed chances to put themsleves out of sight earlier in the game before a poor piece of defending from a corner saw them relinquish their lead. © Provided by Daily Mail Martin Keown laid into Arsenal after their draw with Slavia Prague on Thursday night © Provided by Daily Mail Arsenal conceded a last-minute euqaliser in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final Former Arsenal defender Keown laid into the Gunners for their cagey approach in the first half before they improved after the break.
The Arsenal manager said before Sunday's visit of Fulham: 'Nico has this ability – it depends on him, we can help him as much as we want but he needs to have the right mindset and consistency to do what he can do.
'Because that is the level that we are going to ask of him, the level I am asking of him – if it is something below that he is not going to play but if he does what he can do he will have a big chance to play because he has got incredible ability.
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'He just needed to change his mindset. He needed a period of adaptation and that is gone now. So we cannot rely on adaptation again, now it is about performance and he can do it.
'He has got the players to support him, a manager that trusts him, he has got all the staff that are willing to help him and all the team-mates who really like him because he is a really likeable character so there are no excuses.'
PEPE'S SEASON STATS
Games: 39 Goals: 10 Assists: 5
*Stats are from all competitions
Pepe's most recent Arsenal goal - a cool dink to open the scoring at Slavia Prague in the Gunners' 4-0 victory that earned them a Europa League semi-finals - was his tenth of the season.
The Ivorian only managed eight in debut season in north London but did manage to pick up double digits in assists in all competitions.
Despite starting most of his matches during his first season on the right-hand side of the attack, Pepe has been used on the left occasionally by Arteta this season ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli.
His two goals against Slavia Prague mean Arsenal are three Europa League victories away from qualifying for next season's Champions League.
The Gunners are currently ninth in the Premier League table but can move seven points behind West Ham in fourth if they beat Fulham on Sunday.
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