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 lackluster 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 practicing his free-kick routine on the training field.
“Every new player usually needs time for adaptation,” Emery 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 from two set-pieces which were perfect. He trying last week with set-piece shooting on the training ground and I was watching his shooting.
“Pepe is improving and tonight he has two goals, which are important for us and for him. He’s continuing the adaptation in his process and as soon as he can adapt, that’s better for us.
“The most important thing is the three points and that some individual players can improve, that they can take 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,” Emery 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.
“The second half we controlled the match better and we had good chances… I think we deserved to win, but Vitoria played well. Every Portuguese team are very organised teams, they have a very good structure and good players.
“There are more positive things than negative things and I want to take the positive things tonight for the next matches.”