Martin Keown has praised Nicolas Pepe after the winger’s goal against Slavia Prague on Thursday night.
The Ivorian scored to put Arsenal ahead on the 86th minute, springing through before dinking the ball over the keeper with a smart finish after coming off the bench.
The Gunners failed to hold onto that lead, conceding three minutes into stoppage time with Tomas Holes scoring what could turn out to be a pivotal away goal ahead of the second leg next week.
But even with that late goal for Arsenal to overcome, Keown singled out Pepe for praise after the 1-1 Europa League draw, highlighting the winger’s mentality after bouncing back from criticism to score.
“What I will say about Pepe: it doesn’t matter how many times you knock him, or leave him out, when he comes on, he’s capable of doing something like that,” said Keown on BT Sport.
“That’s why Arsenal are not out of this tie and they’ll know that, it’s about getting those players up to boiling point at the right time – that’s the task for this manager now.
“Picking the right 11, picking the right tactics, perhaps he can play Saka now on that left-hand side. I thought the left-hand side for Arsenal looked particularly weak until those changes were made.
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“Willian wasn’t in the game, Cedric didn’t give us the width that Tierney does.”
Arsenal will now have to score in the Czech Republic to have a chance of proceeding to the next round after that late goal at the Emirates Stadium.
Should Mikel Arteta’s men find a way to progress, they will likely face Villarreal in the semi-final with the Spanish side taking a 1-0 lead over Dinamo Zagreb ahead of their home leg.