Nicolas Pepe gets chance at Arsenal redemption

Meanwhile, Dundalk opposition analyst Shane Keegan is confident the best is yet to come for his side
Nicolas Pepe gets chance at Arsenal redemption

Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe (right) holds off Dundalk's Patrick McEleney at the Emirates Stadium. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will hand Nicolas Pepe the chance for a swift redemption in Europa League Group B at Molde this evening.

Ivory Coast forward Pepe is facing up to a three-match domestic ban following a red card against Leeds, appearing to headbutt Ezgjan Alioski. The Gunners boss branded Pepe's behaviour "unacceptable" following Sunday's goalless draw at Elland Road.

Arteta, though, rejected suggestions the 25-year-old - a £72m signing from Lille during August 2019 - would be frozen out of his plans.

"We have all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers," the Arsenal manager said ahead of the Europa League tie in Norway, where his team could secure qualification for the knockout stage.

"Obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team."

"It is absolutely not (the end of his Arsenal career after the red card). I will give Nico my full support all the time. He knows where he has to improve and we all know his qualities.

"He has some responsibility, I have a lot of responsibility, which is to get the best out of him and get the best position for him, the best areas where he can do what he can do with the ball."

"I cannot fault his effort at all. You see the way he strives for the team, the way he's working, it's been the best since he's been at the club.

"But there have been some aspects he can do better in because he has the ability. That's where I'm going to put the pressure on him to deliver what he can do. To say it's a threat for him to finish his (Arsenal) career, it is not at all like that.

"He has reacted the right way after that (sending off) and hopefully I can see a player that shows that every week.

"It is in his hands. He is a player I really like, that I know what he can give, and it is completely up to him."

Meanwhile on the eve of their Group B match with Rapid Vienna at Aviva Stadium tonight (8pm), Dundalk opposition analyst Shane Keegan is confident the best is yet to come for his side.

“This season hasn’t gone as we’d have liked it to but yet we’ve now found ourselves in a position where we could have a fantastic finish to the season,” he said. 

“If we could go and put points on the board over these three remaining European games and if we go and deliver a performance in Athlone on Sunday and put ourselves in an FAI Cup final and in with a chance of potentially winning that, on top of the extra little kudos for Jordan (Flores, nominated for a Fifa Puskas award for his volley against Shamrock Rovers in February) as well, that represents a fairly decent finish to the season.”

Dundalk interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli, who does not hold a Uefa Pro Licence, is banned from the touchline this evening by Uefa. The Lilywhites will be without Patrick Hoban who underwent ankle surgery.

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