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Graeme Souness has backed Nicolas Pepe to go on and be a ‘star’ at Arsenal, comparing the forward’s mixed debut season to that of Thierry Henry who is now regarded as the best player in the club’s history.
Pepe scored Arsenal’s second goal as Mikel Arteta’s men ended a run of four successive draws in the Premier League with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Newcastle at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
Newcastle managed to keep the Gunners at bay until half-time but the floodgates opened after captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang broke the deadlock with a clinical header in the 54th minute.
Arsenal doubled their lead just three minutes later as Bukayo Saka put the ball on a plate for Pepe in the box after nutmegging Valentino Lazaro on the left flank.
A pair of late goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette rounded off a perfect afternoon for the north London club and Souness was full of praise for Pepe’s all-round performance.
The Ivorian has so far struggled to live up to his club-record £72million price tag this season, but Sky Sports pundit Souness is confident he will prove all his doubts wrong.
‘I like him, I think there is a real, real player in there,’ the ex-Liverpool and Scotland midfielder said following Arsenal’s win.
‘If you think of their best ever player, Thierry Henry, coming here, didn’t have a great first year, took a bit of time and I see Pepe being a star here. ‘He’s got great feet, electric and he’s a baby.’
Arsenal head coach Arteta was delighted with the performance Pepe produced from both an attacking and defensive perspective.
‘We just need consistency from him,’ the Spaniard said. ‘The way he applied himself defensively he was top drawer, things he wasn’t doing in the past.’
Lacazette ended goal drought stretching back to December 12 with a scruffy finish at the death and Arteta hopes it will be a boost the Frenchman’s confidence levels.
‘After the break we started saying we had to start closing the gap on the top teams and turn draws into wins,’ the Spaniard added.
‘Today was the first opportunity and we’ve done it. All good. ‘I’m so pleased for Laca – the reaction of the players and staff towards him. He fights hard for everyone. He’s been unlucky.
‘He will gain confidence from this and knows how everyone appreciates him.’