Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he will continue to put pressure on Nicolas Pepe to reach his full potential and repay the club’s “huge investment”.
The Gunners boss was left angered by Pepe after the winger was sent off in their goalless draw with Leeds for a headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski.
The club’s £72m record signing has apologised both publicly and privately to his manager, who is hoping to see a reaction in Thursday’s Europa League group stage game against Molde.
“We all have disappointment and frustrations in our playing careers,” Arteta said. “He’s had a really good reaction, the way he apologised and understood his responsibility. Hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see.”
Asked if he feared the incident might have spelt an early end to Pepe’s Arsenal career, Arteta said: “No, it is absolutely not. I will give Nico my full support. He knows the things that he has to improve but we all know his qualities.
“That’s where I am going to put the pressure on, to deliver what we know he can do. I have a lot of responsibility to get the best out of him and I cannot fault his effort.
“The club made a huge investment on him and people expect a lot. He needs to embrace that challenge and go for it.
“He needs to feel that myself and the club are going to protect him. We are giving him time that he needed to adapt to the Premier League.
“With his ability, I am going to be very demanding because I know what he can do and he needs to deal with that.
“He has reacted the right way and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week. It’s completely down to him.”
Arsenal have scored just one goal in their last five Premier League matches and will be hopeful of a confidence-boosting win in Norway.
The Europa League has proved to be a welcome distraction from the Gunners’ domestic woe and a fourth successive Group B victory on Thursday will guarantee qualification into the knockout stages.
Arteta, though, has warned his side against complacency.
Arsenal’s absentee list
Mohamed Elneny – Unavailable for Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Egypt
Sead Kolasinac – Unavailable for Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Bosnia & Herzegovina
Thomas Partey – Unavailable for Thursday with left thigh strain
Bukayo Saka – Unavailable for Thursday with dead leg but will be back for Sunday’s match against Wolves
Willian – Unavailable for Thursday with calf strain but could be back on Sunday
Pablo Mari and Gabriel Martinelli – Long-term absentees
“They made it difficult for us in the first leg and tomorrow on an artificial pitch, it becomes different,” he said.
“Molde are very dominant in the (Norwegian) league obviously and are so used to winning football matches. I expect them to have a real go.
“They were aggressive when they played against us in certain phases of our play, were organised, good on the the counter-attack and set-pieces as well.
“We want to be there, win the game and we know that will give us the qualification.”