The Gunners' club-record signing will return from suspension on Wednesday when the north London outfit side hosts Southampton in the Premier League. It has been just under a month since Nicolas Pepe got himself sent off for Arsenal during their 0-0 draw at Leeds United.
Since then, the club’s record signing has had to sit at home and watch his team-mates lose three successive games in the Premier League, scoring just one goal in the process.
Pepe, meanwhile, has kept himself in shape by starring in the Europa League, scoring in the win away at Molde, and setting up a goal for Folarin Balogun in the victory against Dundalk on Thursday.
The £72 million winger’s performances in Europe have made his domestic absence even tougher to take, with his eye for goal and ability to create something out of nothing matched by few others in Mikel Arteta’s mismatch of a squad.
But now the 25-year-old, who has more direct goal involvements - four goals and three assists - than any other player for the Gunners this season, is available again and has a real opportunity to show he can be the man to spark Arsenal’s crumbling season back into life.
“Big moments require big players and when that happens, you expect very big players to do something about it,” Arteta said when asked whether Pepe could make the difference after his suspension.
“But we are not relying on just one individual. It is not something I like when we are having a difficult moment.”
When Pepe trudged off the pitch at Elland Road on November 22 after being shown a red card for his head butt on Ezgjan Alioski, there were many who believed it was the beginning of the end of his Arsenal career.