Arsenal manager Unai Emery has heaped praise on Nicolas Pepe after his match-winning free-kicks for Arsenal in the Europa League against Vitoria, calling them “perfect”.
The Ivorian winger had come on as a 74th-minute substitute, replacing Alexandre Lacazette, and sparked a lacklustre Arsenal into life with two sensational free-kicks in the 80th and 92nd minutes to snatch a 3-2 win.
It was a performance that drew the plaudits from Emery, who revealed that Pepe has been practising his free-kick routine on the training field.
“Every new player usually needs time for adaptation,” he said in his post-match press conference. “Pepe is a very good player and we believe in him totally.
“We are very happy for him and us because he has two goals and two set-pieces which are perfect. He was tired last week with set pieces and shooting on the training ground and I was expecting it when he was shooting.
“He is improving and tonight he has two goals, which are important for us and for him. He’s continued his process of adaption and quickly, he is better for us.
“I think the most important is the three points and also some other players show they can improve and how they can feel confidence for us and for them.”
Arsenal were staring defeat in the face before Pepe came on the field, with Vitoria more than matching their opponents, but Emery believes his side ultimately deserved the victory.
“A lot happened over 90 minutes,” he added. “The Europa League is very important for us and our aim is to finish first in the group. In the first half, we struggled more than we wanted, we lost a lot of balls in the middle and given them chances in the transition to score and start winning the match.