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Jeremy Pied exclusive: Talking Arsenal ace Pepe, Southampton & future

Things didn't quite work for Jeremy Pied in England with an ACL injury limiting his chances during a two-year spell on the south coast with Southampton.

The former Nice defender is now back in more familiar climes with Lille, but was happy to be back in England when his current side played Chelsea in their final match of the Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

The match ended 2-1 and proved the end of the road for Lille in a competition in which they only picked up one point this season.

However, Pied wasn't too downbeat about the defeat with Lille still challenging at the sharp end in Ligue 1, while he also showed an awareness of the quality of the opponents they were drawn against.

"I am a little bit disappointed but that's it, Chelsea was better tonight," Pied told Tribal Football after the game.

"They played the start of the game with the feeling to win and the commitment was better from Chelsea. Thanks to our goal at the end we pushed and believed, so it was not too bad but it was not enough to get a draw at the minimum."

Drawn with Chelsea, Valencia and last season's semi-finalists Ajax, it was always going to be tough ask for Lille to qualify from this group, especially after they were forced to sell prized asset Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal during the summer.

"Chelsea number two, Valencia number one," Pied asked.

"It is surprising because the level of each team is very good and even Ajax finished in third. You have to give your best on the pitch and that is it."

Lille were particularly impressive last season finishing second and have a similar finish in their sights this time around too, despite the loss of Pepe.

The French club have also bolstered their squad with the addition of Renato Sanches, while they have some talented youngsters in the shape of Boubakary Soumare and Tiago Djalo making an impact in the first team.

"The goal for us is to finish in second like last season and to get back into the Champions League as soon as possible," Pied explained.

"But the most important thing is that we won the last three games, so we have to keep the same attitude and commitment to push and keep going like that."

This game against Chelsea was Pied first time playing in England since he left Southampton in 2018, but he remains positive about the overall experience of playing and living in England.

"My time at Southampton was difficult because when I came I had damaged my ACL, so that made it more difficult," he recalled.

"It was good learning in England, my daughter was born in England. When times are difficult you have to learn and tried to learn."

Asked if he would ever consider a return, Pied answered: "Why not come back to England, anything is possible in football. I like the fans in England, so why not, we will see."

Pied's former teammate Pepe scored his first goal from open play for Arsenal on Monday and before heading back onto the team bus, he gave his assessment on the progress of the Cote d'Ivoire international so far this season.

"I saw Pepe's goal yesterday," Pied said.

"He scored a very good goal and had an assist to Aubameyang. We know him very well and he is very good so I am not surprised. I think he needs a little bit of time, like some players when they come to England they need time and if he gets that you will see the best of him."

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William Dodds

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