On Saturday morning, the news broke that Arsenal were strongly on the case of Nicolas Pepe, finding an €80m fee agreement with Lille.
Though it’s not quite a done deal just yet, Arsenal are just waiting on an agreement with Pepe’s agent at this stage. David Ornstein claims the transfer is set to be closed in the next day or two.
€80m is a lot of money. Though the payment structure means Arsenal won’t owe the whole amount up front, it would still represent a club-record fee for the Gunners. So why are the club investing so much in a single player?
Undoubtedly, Pepe has had a couple of really good seasons with Lille.
The winger scored 23 goals and assisted a further 11 in 41 appearances in 2018/19, and his figures the previous season weren’t too shabby either, with 14 goals and five assists, most of which came after he moved out to the right-wing.
The 24-year-old only seems to be getting better, so to have him signed up on a long-term deal would be an exciting prospect for many top clubs.
For Arsenal specifically, Pepe addresses a major issue in the current squad. He’s a winger who prefers to play on the right, something the club are really lacking at the moment.
Alex Iwobi always plays his best football on the left, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was regularly selected to play on that side last season as well. The returning Reiss Nelson has also never impressed me as much on the right as he does on the left.
Then there’s Bukayo Saka, who is certainly best off operating on that side, and Gabriel Martinelli is the same.
It’s not that those players aren’t Arsenal quality, but the fact is none of them are really comfortable on the right-hand side. Even reported transfer target Wilfried Zaha works better on the left.
Pepe is the opposite. He’s left-footed and loves to cut inside and drive towards goal. He’s a strong dribbler and he’s devastating on the counter-attack. The idea of the winger linking up with Hector Bellerin on the Spaniard’s return is mouth-watering stuff.
Arsenal still need to finalise the deal and there’s no telling whether Pepe will be able to adapt straight away. Nonetheless, the club are making signings in positions that needed upgrades, and that’s a positive sign.