·21 March 2023
·21 March 2023
Nicolas Pepe made his long-awaited return from injury for OGC Nice last week, coming off the bench against Sheriff Tiraspol before starting against FC Lorient at the weekend.
The Arsenal loanee had been out of action for a couple of months with a knee problem, missing nine games of club football and dropping out of the Ivory Coast squad while he gets back to full fitness.
In his absence, Nice had actually performed pretty well, setting themselves up to challenge for European qualification at the end of the season.
Yet Nice manager Didier Digard says there’s no question that having Pepe back is a bonus, regardless of their strong recent performances.
“Before his injury, he was performing very well,” Digard said. “It’s an advantage for us. We don’t see it like, ‘We find someone while it was going well, how are we going to do it?’.
“Not at all, he is an extra weapon. He’s capable of making a difference at any time, we saw that against Tiraspol. He can eliminate his opponents one on one.
“I think he is feared by the opponents, so he can free up space for us.”
Pepe certainly seemed to be effective in one on one situations on his first start post-injury at the weekend.
The winger completed seven of his seven attempted dribbles in the match, more than anyone else on the pitch.
The 27-year-old also remains Nice’s joint-top scorer this season, despite his long recent absence.
All parties will be hoping for a strong end to the season for the Arsenal man, to head into the summer in the best possible position.
open to staying in France beyond the conclusion of the season, so the next couple of months could be key for his future.
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