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Ahead of Thursday night’s crucial Europa League tie against Benfica, Granit Xhaka was the player selected to hold a pre-match press conference for Arsenal, with the star raving about Nicolas Pepe.
Pepe, the club’s record signing with 72 million pounds for BBC Sport, has recovered a bet as an important player for Mikel Arteta’s team since January.
The Ivorian has had a slight change of position by the coach, with Pepe impressing in the few games he has had lately as a left-back, in a slight change that has also been ‘very good’ for Xhaka.
Xhaka, who said that Pepe is “very important” for the team and has “a lot of quality”, admitted that the 25-year-old has looked “very good” on the left wing.
In response to a glowing question from a journalist wondering if a left-wing player like Pepe is ‘more suited’ to Xhaka, who plays as a left central midfielder, the Swiss star clearly agreed.
Xhaka expressed that having someone like the former Lille player, who is ‘very fast and can run behind’, on the same side as wingers Cedric and Kieran Tierney who like ‘the ball at their feet’, has left the midfielder with ‘Two options open’, which of course has been ‘very good’ for his own game.
See more: Video: Kieran Tierney rages during Arsenal training in hilariously bizarre moments where balls were seen being fired before the draw with Benfica
Granit Xhaka admitted that Nicolas Pepe looks solid since he passed to the left, adding that this change from Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal has also been ‘very good’ for him … pic.twitter.com/NRZkTLuMcR
– CaughtOffside (@caughtoffside) February 24, 2021
“Yes, Pepe is very important to us.”
“He has a lot of quality, the last few weeks as you also said, he played more on the left, he looks very good on the left if I’m honest, because I’ve only seen him on the right.”
“Yes, the important thing is to know the players who can play in both positions. It made a difference in recent weeks, Southampton, for example, when they scored 1-1 ”.
“Yes, if you have players like him, because they are very fast and can run behind, with Cedric (Soares) or with Kieran (Tierney) on the left, they like to have the ball at their feet. You have two options open and this is very good for me ”.
Xhaka explicitly referenced the 3-1 win against Southampton to highlight Pepe’s play down the left, the Ivory Coast international scoring the equalizer after the Gunners lagged behind early on in brilliant style.
Pepe looked just as confident on his next outing coming down the left side, with the deft striker scoring a brilliant goal against Wolves, although the north London side fell to a controversial 2-1 loss.
It is clear that Pepe’s change has also benefited Xhaka a lot, he admitted it with the comment of ‘open options’, the Ivorian’s play offers a more balanced attack route on the left.