The former Arsenal manager, Unai Emery has praised the winger who arrived during his time. Arsenal’s club-record signing, Nicolas Pepe has been getting more and more confident with time, which was said by the Spanish manager ahead of Arsenal’s tie with Villarreal.
Nicolas Pepe started his footballing career with a surprising role. He was a goalkeeper at the start, but soon became an outfield player at his local club. After sending a year there, he signed for a Ligue 2 side, Angers. Initially, he featured for the reserves. He was later sent on a loan spell, and after he returned, he played for a promoted Angers side.
In 2017, he signed a 5-year deal with Lille, after he was intently scouted by Marcelo Bielsa, who currently manages Leeds United. He soon became a trusted player in the squad. In the first season, he featured in almost every game. The next season it was even better as he didn’t miss a single Ligue 1 fixture.
The agility and skills provided by the youngster attracted a lot of clubs. Barcelona were said to have shown interest in signing him during his 2nd season. However, it was the Premier League team, Arsenal that won the race to his signature. In 2019, Pepe joined The Gunners for a club-record fee of £72 million.
His initial year was troublesome as he was not able to deliver according to his price tag. However, he is slowly getting the grab of the Premier League with a much mature performance put up this season so far. He has scored 2 goals more than his first season, with a lesser fixture played.
Pepe praised by Unai Emery before the Arsenal clash:
Unai Emery spent one-and-a-half-year as the manager of the Arsenal. During his time, many new faces got the chance to start their career. When asked about facing his old club, Emery was only happy to talk about his time there with no regrets.
He further said that it was an honour to have managed a club with such great history. While talking further about his memories, he vividly remembered his record-breaking signing, Nicolas Pepe. He believes that Pepe is an important player for the squad and he is getting more and more confident as he settles to the League.
“There is a competitive instinct, that responsibility I owe the club and everyone I represent with my decisions. I did that proudly when I was at Arsenal, now I’ll do that at Villarreal.
I will have to put aside my feelings for Arsenal, and I will have to put all my energies into making sure that the Yellow Submarine gets the upper hand in the tie.” – Unai Emery told UEFA.
Unai Emery’s journey at the English club didn’t end under great circumstances. He has 3 Europa League titles to his name when he coached Sevilla. His great record in this competition was the reason why Arsenal hired him.
It was a great run as usual until the final. They faced Chelsea which they lost by a one-sided scoreline. And a series of winless displays the next season saw him get sacked in November 2019.
Villarreal will be hosting Arsenal for the frist-leg of the Europa League semi-final. Both sides will want to win as winning the competition will grant a direct ticket to the Champions League, which either of them cannot achieve in the League. Villarreal are 7th in La Liga whereas Arsenal are 10th in the Premier League.