Freddie Ljungberg Says Nicolas Pepe Can 'Sleep Happy' After West Ham Performance

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his sides second goal with Saed Kolasinac during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal FC at London Stadium on December 09, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Arsenal interim manager Freddie Ljungberg praised winger Nicolas Pepe for his excellent display in the 3-1 win over West Ham United on Monday, telling reporters the Ivory Coast international can "sleep happy" after netting his first Premier League goal since September. 

The 24-year-old played a crucial role in the come-from-behind win, which Ljungberg hopes will be a big boost to the squad, per the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel:

"People always ask me about Pepe, and he needs to adapt and that's not so easy, especially with his price.

"But he showed his quality tonight, and he can sleep happy. He will get better and better.

"I hope the win changes the mood. They look happy. But we are demanded to win football matches, and I can sense the pressure that we have been under.

"That lifted a bit today. You always hope one win can transform a season―but we can't get carried away."

Arsenal's Swedish Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg applauds the fans following the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at The London Stadium, in east London on December 9, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RE

Angelo Ogbonna gave the Hammers a first-half lead, but Gabriel Martinelli equalised after the break before Pepe took over. He scored the go-ahead goal and then assisted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, securing Arsenal's first win in their last 10 tries in all competitions.

Pepe had scored just a single Premier League goal before his well-taken effort on Monday, in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa in September.

Per Sky Sports Statto, he did more than just score at the London Stadium:

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

👏 Man of the Match, @Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe 🔴⚪ Scored with only shot, his first @premierleague goal from open play Most dribbles & successful dribbles of any player on the pitch Involved in 17 duels, most of any Arsenal player tonight 👏 https://t.co/VbaMOBwRXj

The star summer acquisition has been the face of Arsenal's struggles this season. Expectations were huge after he arrived in a deal worth £72 million from Lille, but he has made just nine Premier League starts so far, proving largely ineffective in the bulk of them.

Monday's win felt like a breakout performance, and even the Gunners Twitter account noted the positive vibes on the sideline:

Arsenal @Arsenal

CONFIDENCE. #WHUARS https://t.co/yY9171jNn9

It was Ljungberg's first win in his third match on the sidelines, and The Athletic's Amy Lawrence believed it could be a key moment for him:

Amy Lawrence @amylawrence71

Really pleased for Freddie Ljungberg, who inherited a (how to put this politely) storm of excrement. He tried, tried and tried again, finally picking a team with Aubameyang at centre forward flanked by two wingers and it paid off. A massive moment for him and for Arsenal. 👏👏👏

Ljungberg played down talk of him getting the job on a permanent basis, however, saying he's "been told just to work on a game-by-game basis."

Arsenal's next outing will be away to Standard Liege in the UEFA Europa League, before a big Premier League clash with Manchester City on Sunday.