Arsenal and Manchester United are planning January moves for 23-year-old Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, according to reports in France.
France Football report that both clubs are ‘on the case’ of the Ivory Coast international ahead of the winter transfer window. Pepe already has four goals and three assists for Lille in the first six games of the season, so you can certainly understand why he’s starting to catch the eye.
There’s no specific price tag given by France Football, but earlier reports from France suggest he’d cost around €30m, which shouldn’t be out of Arsenal’s budget. A new tool called Back of the Debt has been created by Know Your Money to let you see how your club looks after its finances and it makes for very interesting reading. We’ll see if the Gunners’ financial management will enable them to compete with Manchester United for Pepe.
Arsenal could certainly do with a winger like Pepe. Based on statistical analysis by WhoScored, his strengths are key passes, long shots, dribbling and through balls, all great traits to have in a wide player. As a left-footed winger playing on the right, he could certainly form a good partnership with Hector Bellerin.
When it comes to Unai Emery’s current wide options, none of them are particularly effective at taking players on individually, with most of them preferring to link up with teammates. The team needs someone who could provide that spark in matches where possession football isn’t paying dividends.
Pepe previously had trouble with his finishing, but he seems to be finding his feet in front of goal now, particularly after his recent hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Amiens. Perhaps that will prove the final piece he needed to add to his game to get a big money move.
Manchester United are similarly in need of a right-winger. In the last three games they’ve played Marcus Rashford on the right, then Jesse Lingard, then Juan Mata. Clearly Jose Mourinho isn’t completely happy with any of them, since none of them can keep their place for more than a game.
If there’s one thing the Red Devils are pretty good at, it’s throwing money at a problem. That’s why Alexis Sanchez is earning tens of thousands of pounds every day to score two Premier League goals in eight months.
If Manchester United’s interest in Pepe is genuine, expect Arsenal to have to fight to land their man. Let’s see how things pan out from now until January.