Arsenal are set to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille in a deal reported to be worth in the region of €80m.
Josh Kroenke, during his interview with the clubs media channel said the supporters should be ‘excited’ by their summer business and since then we’ve learned the Gunners are set to announce the acquisition of the Ivorian. Pepe has been linked with Manchester United, Napoli, Liverpool and Bayern Munich this summer - making him one of the most coveted players in the European game.
Lille’s willingness to accept a structured payment plan has made the deal possible and may be the reason the Gunners’ attention turned to Pepe following their inability to agree a deal with Crystal Palace for Wilfried Zaha. Nonetheless, Arsenal’s capture of Pepe represents a huge coup.
What will Pepe bring to the Arsenal?
Pepe joins Arsenal having had an outstanding season in Ligue 1. His 22 goals and 11 assists propelled the French outfit to second place in the division, therefore securing Champions League qualification for Christophe Galtier’s side.
The Gunners faithful have been frustrated by the likes of Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in recent times and the expectation is that Pepe’s arrival will mean Unai Emery finally has a proven and natural wide man in his squad.
Pace, Power and Precision
Pepe’s at his best when he operates from the right-hand side despite being left-footed. The Ivorian’s pace and power has terrorised defences up and down France for a couple of seasons now but there's a lot more to the 24-year-old’s game than simply being a pace merchant.
In the past, critics would point to Pepe’s lack of end product and highlight the fact he would often look down when in possession and miss opportunities to assist his teammates. However, Pepe’s 11 assists last season suggest he’s improved significantly in that department and his ability to produce regularly is no longer in question.
Pepe finished the 2018/19 season as Lille’s top goalscorer and second only to Kylian Mbappe in the French top flight. His impressive goal tally saw him finish above the likes of Edison Cavani and Brazilian superstar Neymar in the race for the golden boot.
To put that into perspective, Pepe managed to more than double the combined tally of Mkhitaryan and Iwobi last season. Nine of the Ivorian’s 22 goals were from the penalty spot and so perhaps the Gunners have found a new penalty taker too.
Pepe is capable of operating anywhere across the front line affording Unai Emery the luxury of being able to shift and rotate his front line at will. If the Spaniard can find a way of accommodating Pepe, Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Mesut Ozil feeding them the Gunners attack could prove unstoppable.
In Pepe the Gunners have found the wide man they've been crying out for, now the supporters will be wondering whether or not Emery can address the defensive shortcomings that cost them a place in this season's UEFA Champions League.