Former Fulham and Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy has hailed Nicolas Pepe’s importance to Arsenal after he scored twice to help the Gunners beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park last night.
Pepe handed the Gunners a first half lead when he finished of a wonderful move by directing Kieran Tierney’s cross from the left flank into the back of the net.
Palace drew themselves level just past the hour mark when Christian Benteke headed home an in-swinging free-kick, meaning Roy Hodgson’s final home game in charge of the Eagles appeared destined to end up in a draw.
However, with the Gunners’ hopes of earning European football for next season slipping away from them, Gabriel Martinelli, who had stepped off the bench with just over ten minutes remaining, restored the lead for Mikel Arteta’s side in stoppage time, converting Martin Odegaard’s peach of a cross.
Although the Brazilian’s strike looked as though it would be enough to seal a 2-1 win, Pepe was to have the final say, producing a brilliant solo run and finish to seal a fourth successive win for the north London club, which has kept their UEFA Europa Conference League hopes alive.
And for Match of the Day pundit Murphy, he was full of praise for Pepe’s performance, insisting he looked “hungry” and confident,” as well as urging Arteta to allow him to play more regularly.
“I think he suffered from the pressure of his price-tag, but he’s certainly got talent,” Murphy told BBC Sport’s Match of the Day. “He’s quick, skilful, he’s direct – like so many players, he’s been up and down with his form but today he showed those bits of magic we’ve seen on occasions.
“Goals, ultimately, are what you judge from a forward player and today, he looked hungry, sharp, fit and confident.
“Back-to-back Premier League games he’s scored in for the first time and he’s got 14 goals this season, which isn’t bad considering Arsenal haven’t scored a hat full, this isn’t the Arsenal team of old where they’re scoring bundles of goals.
“Hopefully for Arsenal fans, they’ll see him progress even more next season.
“He’s got to play more regularly, he’s got to produce this type of form every week to keep himself ahead of Saka, who’s probably been Arsenal’s best player this season.”
Pepe’s double means he is now just three behind Arsenal’s leading marksman this season – Alexandre Lacazette – and one shy of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s total of 15.
Considering the Ivory Coast international is now beginning to show a consistent level of form, it should not be ruled out that he could end up leapfrogging Aubameyang, perhaps even Lacazette, with one game of the season left to play.
Source by Football London