This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Well that came out of nowhere didn’t it? Having had to listen to reports of Arsenal’s transfer budget seemingly being capped at a meagre £40m this summer, Unai Emery’s side have sold us all down a river and quite possibly clinched one of the signings of the window.
According to BBC Sport, the Gunners have reached an agreement with Lille in order to sign Nicolas Pepe for a reported £72m. It is also claimed that the north London club will pay their French counterparts in instalments so that it suits their financial situation. Quite the pleasant surprise for fans to wake up to this weekend.
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All summer the Gunners have been linked with a whole host of wingers, and the main target was seemingly Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha. Instead, the north Londoners could be seeing the much younger and much more prolific Pepe strut his stuff at the Emirates next season. And boy will he transform their attack.
The Ivory Coast international is a naturally left-footed player who operates from the right-hand side. The 23-goal ace would give Emery’s team a much-needed boost of pace and end product down the wide area areas; a position dominated by the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi last season.
If Emery decides to throw caution to the wind, and field a mouth-watering front four of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Pepe, then the Premier League will be in for a treat. Pepe will give Arsenal a greater balance on the flanks, and perhaps have a knock-on effect on the influence a returning Hector Bellerin could have.
Pepe’s tendency to drift inside and cut back onto his left foot will naturally allow Bellerin to make more dangerous overlapping runs, and allow the Gunners to maximise the potential of another attacking weapon. Whilst Zaha seemed to have a streak of individualism to his game, Pepe’s total of 12 assists last season showed his growing willingness to interchange with his teammates; something that Emery will surely applaud.
The Gunners’ reliance on their front-two last season was public knowledge; bringing Pepe in would give Arsenal an extra dimension and something else for opposition teams to worry about. Emery’s side have been crying out for a bona-fide star from the wide areas since Alexis Sanchez made his acrimonious exit from the Emirates back in January 2018. Pepe could finally be the man to fill the Chilean’s shoes and form part of one of European football’s most formidable attacks.