Watch: Nicolas Pepe removes defender’s soul with filthy nutmeg
Arsenal eased into the League Cup semi-finals with a comprehensive 5-1 win over Sunderland on Tuesday evening – and Nicolas Pepe lit up the Emirates Stadium with the filthiest of nutmegs.
League One Sunderland battled well and gave their Premier League opponents some scares but, ultimately, Mikel Arteta’s side possessed too much quality and progressed to the final four of the competition.
With a compressed schedule, Arteta used the match to give some of his fringe players a chance to shine and Pepe caught the eye with his performance.
The £72million winger, still Arsenal’s record transfer, has played just 12 minutes of league action since the match against Crystal Palace in October – sitting on the bench for eight of the last ten games.
And, with speculation about his Arsenal future growing, Pepe provided a timely reminder of his talents.
The Ivory Coast international scored and provided assists for Eddie Nketiah and Charlie Patino – but one second-half nutmeg left the Emirates crowd purring with satisfaction.
Having won a foot race with Denver Hume to the touchline, Pepe dragged the ball backwards and majestically slipped it through his opponent’s legs.
He teed up Martin Odegaard but his shot was well-parried by Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge.
Towards the end of last season, Pepe told Canal + about his frustration at not being a first-choice pick under Arteta.
He said: “My aim is to play more, to have more game time. A player who plays is a happy player. For me, I want to rediscover my smile.
“Mikel Arteta wants me to be 100% focused for the 90 minutes of the game. Then I see during training that I will be a substitute the following weekend.
“It’s frustrating for any player to be on the bench. The role of a super-sub? The coach makes his choices. It’s up to me to show him so that I don’t have this role.”