Brendan Rodgers admission shows Nicolas Pepe is finally doing exactly what Arsenal need from him

Nicolas Pepe looked much closer to his best on Sunday in an impressive performance against Leicester City.

The £72million signing has flattered to deceive during his time at the Emirates Stadium so far, attracting plenty of criticism for his performances in an Arsenal shirt.

But on Sunday, he looked much more like a £72m player, scoring to help Arsenal to a 3-1 comeback win over high-flying Leicester, the goal taking his tally up to nine for the season.

When the Gunners landed the Pepe from Lille, they were hoping to get a player with the magic to win games, to force opposing managers into ripping up their game plan.

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And he just hadn’t managed that so far, but on Sunday he certainly did the latter, forcing Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers into altering his game plan.

Rodgers started 19-year-old Luke Thomas at left-back but had to substitute him at half-time for the more experienced Marc Albrighton, to cope with Pepe.

That change led to a sizeable change of the system as Rodgers brought Ricardo Pereira over from right-midfield, meaning Kieran Tierney wasn’t so occupied by the Portuguese’s pace, with Albrighton then moving onto that flank.

“He had been booked,” said Rodgers of the change on BT Sport. “And he was up against a winger who was very good on the one v one’s.

“So, we certainly didn’t want to go down to ten men. And that was the reason.”

That’s exactly what Arsenal will want to see – Pepe causing the opposition headaches by creating relentless danger down his side of the pitch.

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Since joining Arsenal on that big-money deal, Pepe has scored 16 and assisted 13 across 72 appearances across all competitions, scoring nine and assisting three so far this term.

This season’s tally is not a particularly poor return, but Mikel Arteta will still want more from his expensive winger heading into the final stages of the season as Arsenal look to force their way into European contention.

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