Newcastle United must prepare for the departure of star man Allan Saint-Maximin this summer – and may need to take a risk on his replacement.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, Newcastle’s star forward is expected to be sold this summer, with the fee received expected to be pumped back into Eddie Howe’s squad.
Among the Frenchman’s mooted replacements are Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson and Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby, while Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe has also been linked with a switch to St. James’ Park this season.
However, in a recent interview with Football Insider, Ex Leeds United forward Noel Whelan claimed that a move for the Gunners attacker would be something of a risk.
Speaking about the Magpies’ potential interest in the 26-year-old, Whelan said: “A loan move may be something that Newcastle might fancy. These are the sort of players they will be targeting. He could turn his career around and end up being that big-ticket player. But right now, it’s a gamble.”
Saint-Maximin has yet again proved his importance this season in more ways than one.
His five goals and three assists have been imperative in Newcastle’s bid to secure Premier League survival, though it’s his dribbling and ball carrying ability that have been the biggest positive for the Magpies.
It comes as no surprise that the 25-year-old ranks top of the Newcastle squad for successful dribbles per match with 4.3. Quite simply, his ability on the ball is often the catalyst for his side’s counterattacks, with the £28.8m-rated forward by far and away being the most efficient carrier of the ball.
However, while losing a player of Saint-Maximin’s calibre would certainly come as a huge blow to the Magpies, they could employ a like-for-like replacement in Nicolas Pepe – the Arsenal winger who has struggled to live up to his enormous transfer fee since signing from Lille in 2019.
Although he has faced scrutiny, he has not exactly been a flop in England thus far. The potential has always been there, with his end product on display for all to see just last season – when he bagged an impressive 10 goals over just 29 appearances for the Gunners.
Indeed, his £72m fee has arguably been his biggest enemy during his time in England, but a move to Newcastle for a rumoured fee of £25m could release the reins for the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.
Pepe is a technical player, just like Saint-Maximin, who thrives in possession, more specifically within the attacking third. With around 35 touches in the attacking third per 90, he ranks in the 93rd percentile amongst positionally similar players within Europe’s top 5 leagues over the past 365 days.
He may be a risk to some, but the underlying stats suggest that the Arsenal winger has everything it takes to replace Allan Saint-Maximin at Newcastle United – leading us to believe that PIF must take a chance on Pepe this summer.