Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he has seen “big developments” in Nicolas Pepe, so the club-record signing could have secured his long-term future at the Emirates Stadium.
Pepe, 25, joined last summer from Lille for a reported fee of £72million but – despite showing flashes of his ability – the forward largely struggled to settle in his first season.
Pepe would end the season playing in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea, having also started the semi-final victory against Manchester City.
But he has not started either Premier League game so far this season as new recruit Willian has been preferred.
Despite dropping back down to the role of substitute, Arteta insists he remains convinced that Pepe will remain a key member of the Arsenal set-up in the coming years.
“I think he has come a long way, Nico,” he said.
“Obviously we know what the club paid for him when he joined and that was obviously an extra pressure.
“He is a really good character to have around and I’m really positive we are going to have him for many years. But he is a player who had to adapt, it is a different style and he has a really good attitude and we can see big developments in a lot of places in his game.
“He is very settled here, he is liked by the boys, he is a really good character to have around and I’m really positive we are going to have him for many years and that he can perform at a really high level consistently.”
ARTETA EXPECTING ARSENAL TO COMPETE AGAINST LIVERPOOL
Pepe made his full debut for the Gunners in last season’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at Liverpool.
Arsenal now face two trips to Anfield in just three days as they face the champions in the league on Monday before returning for a fourth-round Carabao Cup tie on Thursday.
Arteta led Arsenal to a Premier League win over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in July before securing a penalty shoot-out victory over the Reds in the Community Shield – but the Spaniard is expecting a different test next week.
“I think they are getting better and better and they have less weaknesses,” Arteta said of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
“They are a fantastic side. The issue with the weaknesses of opponents is how many you are able to exploit and how many opportunities you get to do that.
“With all the incredible things that they have, you know that they are going to try and still be able to do them. So I want to focus on what we can do and what we have to do and control our own aspects.
“For me it’s much more important that the overall mindset of the team is right and they have the actual belief that when we get on that plane to go to Liverpool, that we can go there to win.
“If we all have that, we’re going to have a much better chance to perform at our highest and have the opportunity to grab the points.
“I haven’t been to Anfield with them yet but I’m expecting that every ground we go to, we’re going to prepare for the game to win and that they realise they are good enough to do that.”