Rio Ferdinand sends message to Nicolas Pepe during Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Southampton

Rio Ferdinand was impressed by Nicolas Pepe's display in Arsenal's 3-1 win over Southampton

Rio Ferdinand
Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand (Photo: BT Sport)

Rio Ferdinand singled out Nicolas Pepe for special praise after he produced a “beautiful” finish to help steer Arsenal to a 3-1 win at Southampton in the Premier League.

The Gunners headed into the game looking to bounce back from the disappointment of their 1-0 defat by the Saints in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Southampton took a early lead at St Mary’s in the third minute when Stuart Armstrong fired home from inside the box.

However, Arsenal equalised five minutes later when Pepe latched onto Granit Xhaka’s excellent through-ball and fired home a confident finish.

Bukayo Saka then made it 2-1 to the visitors when he rounded the goalkeeper and fired into an empty net in the 39th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette netted to secure the points for the Gunners with a close-range finish from Saka’s cross in the 72nd minute.

The goal was only Pepe’s third of the season in the Premier League and sixth in all competitions.

And former Manchester United defender Ferdinand was impressed by the way the Ivory Coast forward finished off the chance.

Speaking over footage of Pepe’s goal on BT Sport at half-time, Ferdinand said: “It’s a fantastic weight of pass from [Granit] Xhaka and it’s all about the composure then from Pepe.

“We’ve been waiting to see this on a consistent basis from him.

“Great footwork to open his body up in between the centre-half and full-back. It’s a fantastic first touch and then the composure to find the side netting is beautiful.”

Reflecting on Arsenal’s performance as a whole, Ferdinand added: “They’ve got a game-plan, they’re sticking to it, and you can see it taking shape.

“Every time they haven’t got the ball, they’re set up and ready to go. They’re looking good.”

Arsenal, who are now eighth in the table, will return to Premier League action on Saturday when they take on Manchester United at The Emirates.

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