Arsenal and Nicolas Pepe is a story that just won’t die and now a report from Italy claims that Arsenal are leading the pack when it comes to signing the winger despite his €70m price tag.

Monaco's Brazilian defender Jemerson (L) fights for the ball with Lille's Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe (R)during the French L1 football match between Monaco and Lille at the 'Louis II Stadium' in Monaco on August 18, 2018. (Photo credit: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Monaco’s Brazilian defender Jemerson (L) fights for the ball with Lille’s Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe (R)during the French L1 football match between Monaco and Lille at the ‘Louis II Stadium’ in Monaco on August 18, 2018. (Photo credit: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

According to the aforementioned report, ‘Arsenal have jumped in to pole for Pepé,’ and ‘the Gunners would be ready to make fools for the ’95 class, despite the assessment of over 70 million euro.’

Quite what the original reporter meant by that is not clear. Does he mean Arsenal are about to make fools of themselves by spending so much on the player? Probably not, but whatever he meant, it has got lost in translation.

As has the fact, apparently, that Arsenal really don’t have that much money to spend.

The Pepe-to-Arsenal train is a nice one I’d love to get on board, but given the fact we are letting Aaron Ramsey go because we can’t afford his wages and have a £350kpw playmaker who gets subbed off for Alex Iwobi when we need to retain the ball better, I just don’t see where the money is coming from for this transfer.

Unless, that is, we sell Mesut Ozil. Even if we do, we are supposedly only looking £25m for him which seems remarkably low. I guess if you add that to the £40m we supposedly have in our kitty for transfers you get close enough to Pepe’s asking price.

That leaves another question, however. How do we then afford defenders?

With the January window fast approaching Luis Campos, the sporting director at LOSC Lille, has named the price at which the club could sell Nicolas Pepe.

Lille's Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Amiens and Lille at the Licorne stadium in Amiens, northern France, on August 26, 2018. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP/Getty Images)
Lille’s Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Amiens and Lille at the Licorne stadium in Amiens, northern France, on August 26, 2018. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP / Getty Images)

by Dan Critchlow

Pepe has been linked with Arsenal by the media since the summer, but Lille are understandably hesitant to sell. The 23-year-old has 12 goals and seven assists in 20 league games this season, pushing his team up to second in the table at the time of writing.

Nonetheless, Campos has confirmed that they would consider selling in January, for the right price. He told Telefoot: “For 80 million euros, we could sell him.”

Unfortunately, €80m (£72m) isn’t exactly a price you’d expect Arsenal to be able to afford. The club only spent £71.1m in the entire summer window, so to spend more than that on one player in January would be massively unexpected.

There’s also the question over whether the Ivory Coast international is even worth that much. Regular followers of Ligue 1 suggest that despite the winger’s impressive goal output this campaign, his overall game could use some work. Plus, his 12 goals don’t look quite so impressive when you discover five of them were penalties.

That’s not to say Pepe hasn’t had some real moments of quality this season, but right now it seems more likely than not he will stay where he is until the summer.

https://twitter.com/RBairner/status/1076791081482760192

Arsenal could use reinforcements in wide areas, but perhaps a better area of focus in January is the defence.

After Nacho Monreal’s injury over the weekend, Shkodran Mustafi still out, along with Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos, the Gunners need to make a signing or two to avoid another six months of Granit Xhaka being forced out of midfield to fill in at the back.

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.