All hail the arrival of the King. It may have taken until December and virtually half-way through the season, but Nicolas Pepe produced the kind of display that may just see his Arsenal career take off.
The Ivory Coast international arrived in a £72m deal from French side Lille in the summer, but his only goals to date for the Gunners have come from dead-ball situations – a penalty against Aston Villa and two free-kicks against Vitoria. But against West Ham on Monday night, the winger stepped up when it mattered.
Having seen Gabriel Martinelli equalise for the north London side after they had gone behind to a deflected effort, Pepe applied his trademark finish to give Arsenal the lead. The Ivorian cut on to his left foot and curled one into the top corner, before providing a sumptuous cross for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to volley home. And after seeing him both score and provide an assist, Gunners fans flooded to Twitter to share their thoughts about the £72m man.
What a performance by Nicolas Pepe today. Superb goal and assist. Nelson coming on for him.
— LTArsenal™ (@ltarsenal) 9 December 2019
The heir to Alexis
— Mike Sleigh (@MikeSleigh1) 9 December 2019
Backed him since he signed, never turned on him. Elite mentality, actual baller. Finally showing himself om confidence. Prem ain’t ready The haters are not allowed back into Pépé FC pic.twitter.com/8acFqH8TnC
— Nico Pépé (@AFCStupendous) 9 December 2019
Good football when we were fluid. Looked like we could score at any moment and all 3 goals were very good. Pepe at the heart of everything exciting. Toreirra was brilliant today. Sadly; we still look exposed at the back.
— Sabah Chötu (@Sabah_ChotuAFC) 9 December 2019
One of Laca or Auba starts not both. Martinelli and Pepe have to play. Pepe will be frustrating as he adapts but has magic in his boots.
Chambers very good.
— Carlos Montoya (@CarlosM23402412) 9 December 2019
Many Arsenal fans were quick to suggest Pepe had silenced some of his critics, with some Manchester United supporters previously mocking him for being worse than Daniel James.
Looking for them Pepe haters like.. pic.twitter.com/KCF69IKN99
— Aman Lall (@amanlall99) 9 December 2019
Pepe haters come outside? NoT sCoReD fRoM oPeN pLaY…. oh
— Harry (@HeccyBellerin) 9 December 2019
Pepe haters aren’t sleeping tonight hahahaha
— YNW Shinigami (@KzTheOne) 9 December 2019
Nico pepe silencing the haters. You love to see it.
— (@1Sango_) 9 December 2019
Having now broken that duck of not scoring from open play, the hope will be that Pepe has found some confidence to kick on with his fledgling career at Arsenal. The Gunners face Manchester City next up in the Premier League, and they will no doubt be looking to their Ivorian for some inspiration.