Please Wait . . .
As responses go, this was as good as it gets from Nicolas Pepe.
Pepe scored the first and was unlucky not to have a couple more as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 success to make it four wins from four in Europe this season.
It was just the type of performance Arteta will have been hoping for following the intense scrutiny that has come Pepe’s way following his moment of madness at Elland Road.
“Hopefully we see the player we want to see,” Arteta had said ahead of the game. “Hopefully he has a really good reaction to help his team.”
And Pepe certainly answered his manager’s call.
Arsenal’s £72 million ($96m) winger was far too good for Molde. He was the stand-out player in an otherwise lacklustre first half and went close to breaking the deadlock when he curled one effort just past the post after a driving 60-yard run.
A wonderful effort early in the second half crashed against the underside of the bar before he finally got the goal he deserved, bending an excellent finish into the top corner from Joe Willock’s cross.
The reaction from the Arsenal players told its own story. They knew the pressure Pepe has been under during the past few days and were clearly delighted for their team-mate.
His lofty price tag will always be a focus of attention, but whilst there is debate about whether Arsenal overpaid for the 25-year-old, there can be no debate about what he brings to the team when he is on his game.
In a side that is struggling for goals and creativity, he adds something different - there is an unpredictability about his game that makes Arsenal afar more threatening team when he’s in the side.
He had six shots against Molde, three more than any other Arsenal player. He also made more key passes (4) than any of his team-mates, had more touches of the ball (80), competed in more duels (20) and made the most passes in the opposition half.
The problem for Arteta now of course is that he will be without Pepe for the next three Premier League games, starting with Wolves on Sunday.
With Willian struggling with a calf injury, that could leave Arteta short of options - although the performance Reiss Nelson put in against Molde could see him handed a start on Sunday when Wolves visit north London.
The 20-year-old scored Arsenal’s second goal, getting on the end of another Willock assist, to add to Pepe’s earlier strike and put the visitors firmly in command.
It was then a matter of just how many Arsenal were going to get. Eddie Nketiah wasted a glorious chance to add a third when he headed over from Pepe’s excellent cross and Alexandre Lacazette saw one fine effort saved.
The third goal did arrive seven minutes from time and it was a big moment for Folarin Balogun, who scored his first ever Arsenal goal just 37 seconds after coming off the bench.