Mikel Arteta praises Nicolas Pepe’s response to getting red card against Leeds by scoring for Arsenal in the 3-0 Europa League victory at Molde… while the Gunners boss also lauds Folarin Balogun after debut goal
- Arsenal qualified for the Europa League knockout stage with a 3-0 win at Molde
- Nicolas Pepe scored the opener before Reiss Nelson and Folarin Balgoun netted
- Mikel Arteta has praised Pepe for his response to his recent red card at Leeds
- The Gunners boss also commended Balogun for some hard-work in training
Mikel Arteta lauded Nicolas Pepe’s reaction to getting sent off against Leeds as the Ivorian returned to the scoresheet in Arsenal’s win over Molde on Thursday.
In his first game since being sent off for headbutting Ezgjan Alioski at Elland Road on Sunday, Pepe curled home a second-half opener to send Arsenal on their way to victory in Norway.
During the week, Arteta had to field questions about whether Pepe’s future in north London was in doubt after the reckless red card, but the Gunners boss claimed the 25-year-old’s attitude has been positive since the weekend.
Mikel Arteta praised Nicolas Pepe (left) after he scored in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Molde
The Arsenal manager said Pepe has reacted well to getting sent off in the Gunners’ last game
Arteta claimed in his post-match press conference: ‘We all know where his level is. All the time the question is how often can he get to that level and contribute to other aspects of the game. Today is the example.’
Before the match, Arteta told BT Sport: ‘He had a really good reaction towards the players and to every supporter after he let the team down.
‘After that I had to support him, it’s a player who is constantly trying to get better and better and I’m trying to help him reach his best.
Pepe curled in a 50th minute strike to send Arsenal on their way to Thursday’s victory
It was the first time Pepe (right) has played since being sent off for a headbutt at Leeds
Owen Hargreaves believes Pepe’s goal on Thursday night will do a great deal to boost both the player’s confidence and Arteta’s faith in him.
Pepe curled home Joe Willock’s cross five minutes after half-time, while Reiss Nelson and young striker Folarin Balogun sealed Arsenal’s spot in the Europa League knockout stages in the New Year.
Hargreaves told BT: ‘It (the goal) was really important for him. They paid a lot of money and everyone expects the end product.
‘He’s put himself in a better position. Mikel will be delighted with the performance.’
Arteta also praised striker Folarian Balogun (left) who netted his first Arsenal goal in Norway
The BT Sport pundit also praised debut scorer Balogun, who netted on just his second substitute appearance for the Gunners on Thursday night.
The 19-year-old turned and fired home inside the penalty area after a swift breakaway involving Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith-Rowe to round off a successful European night for the Gunners.
Hargreaves added: ‘It was a big moment for the young man. I liked the way they celebrated as a team around him, he’s another young player who’s going to have a great career. I think for Mikel he’ll be happy with what he saw.’
The 19-year-old scored in just his second Arsenal game moments after coming off the bench
Arteta believes the goal was just rewards for Balogun’s displays in training, and can hopefully put a difficult summer filled with transfer speculation behind him.
The young striker’s contract comes to an end after this season and the teenager has been linked with a move to Championship side Brentford next year.
The Arsenal manager said after the game: ‘(The goal) was well deserved for the boy. He’s working really hard. We had some difficult months with the speculation around him.’
Arteta (left) claims Balogun’s goal is a reward for some hard working in training recently
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes Balogun has an outside chance of featuring in Sunday’s Premier League encounter with Wolves and has urged Arsenal to make room for the young forward in their plans.
Keown told BT Sport: ‘Other teams are interested in him, what about Arsenal giving him a pathway to get into the first-team? Can he make into the first eleven?
‘This is the B team almost. There is a big game at the weekend as it’s a big thought for Arteta.’