According to a number of media outlets, including Sky Sports, Lille have accepted an offer of around £72million from Arsenal for highly-rated winger Nicolas Pepe. Italian club Napoli have also agreed a fee for the winger, but the Gunners can trump the Italians when it comes to wages, reportedly offering a contract worth £4.5million per season.
The move comes on the back of speculation that the Gunners were interested in signing Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, with the Eagles demanding a fee of around £80million for the Ivory Coast star.
Pepe one of the most in-demand players this summer
Nicolas Pepe’s displays last season for Lille made him one of the most in-demand players in the European game. Ironically, an international teammate of Zaha, Pepe scored 22 goals and produced 11 assists in the French top-flight, helping his team to finish as runners-up behind champions PSG.
His displays attracted the attention of many of the leading clubs in Europe, including reportedly the likes of Liverpool and Juventus. His pace and eye for a goal are attributes that would thrive in most of the top European teams.
Pepe would certainly be an exciting addition to the Arsenal squad. However, in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they already have top attacking talent. Maybe they are signing enough quality up top to negate their woeful defence.
Weak in defence
Arsenal are still reportedly confident of completing a deal for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney. The Gunners are the favourites to be the Scottish international’s next club. Even if they sign Tierney, Unai Emery’s team still has major defensive problems.
Right-back Hector Bellerin and centre-back Rob Holding are still sidelined due to injury and look likely to miss the start of the league campaign. Then there is club captain Laurent Koscielny, who refused to go on the Gunners US tour. Some reports suggest he has played his last game for the team from north London.
That leaves Emery with centre-back options of the unpopular Shkodran Mustafi and experienced Greek centre-back Sokratis. The latter’s countryman Konstantinos Mavropanos is also on the club’s books, but question marks remain over his ability to play at the highest level.
The likes of Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers are surplus to requirements. Both players seemed to have spent much of their Arsenal careers on-loan elsewhere, gathering experience that they are unlikely to use in a Gunners shirt. On the face of it, signing defenders seems to be the priority for Arsenal, even if Pepe would prove to be an exciting signing.
Top-four race open this season
There is very little doubt that Manchester City and Liverpool will take two of the Champions League spots next season. Tottenham have strengthened and will also be confident of another top-four spot next season. However, after that, it could be anybody’s guess who will finish where. The usual suspects of Chelsea and Manchester United are likely to be competing, as will the Gunners.
The signing of Pepe may well keep the Gunners on the front foot when it comes to attacking teams. However, the Arsenal backline is simply not good enough and it would not be a surprise if their defensive deficiencies cost Emery’s side a top-four spot next season.
Will signing Nicolas Pepe help Arsenal clinch a top-four spot next season?