£72million Pepe deal inches nearer but Emery must address defensive weakness, too

Talking Points

It seems as it is but a mere matter of time before Arsenal announce that they have signed £72million Nicolas Pepe from French outfit Lille. If they can get the deal over the line it will mean that the Gunners could have an irresistible look about them in terms of their attack. With powerhouse front two Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette, Pepe will surely add another dimension to the options available to boss Unai Emery.

And with youngsters such as Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson chomping at the bit to get a slice of the action, you would think that, with the likes of Mesut Ozil in the playmaker role, Arsenal will be able to grab a decent haul of goals as the season unfolds in the Premier League and the Europa League as well, of course, as the other domestic cup competitions.

But it is at the other end of the pitch that Arsenal supporters should be concerned about. Simply, the Gunners rear guard isn’t as strong as it should be. As a custodian, Bernd Leno is formidable and he will no doubt take on the added responsibility since he took over as the club’s main keeper after the retirement of Petr Cech in the summer. But in front of him there are issues, no doubt. Shkodran Mustafi is hardly a fans’ favourite and still looks a little shoddy and prone to an error or three.

Laurent Koscielny is on his way out, of course, after his incredibly dumb move to refuse to go on the Gunners’ summer tour of the USA to try to force a move away from the Emirates Stadium. Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are still not fit after long-term injuries meant they missed a large chunk of last term, while utility backline operative Nacho Monreal looks passed his best, at the age of 33. Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are dependable but not top, top class — while Calum Chambers, back at Arsenal after a season-long with recently related Fulham – falls into the same category.

The recruitment of defenders — Kieran Tierney is said to be on his way to London from Celtic — is something former Arsenal midfielder Ray parlour has pointed out in the media of late — and he said:

“The worry for me has always been the defence. We’re talking about signing good players but we aren’t talking about no defenders at the moment.

“Defenders is probably the key area where we are missing at the moment. We know about Koscielny’s situation, that has not been great for the club, him not going on tour. That is the area for me where they’ve got to address big time if they’re going to have any chance to get in that top four again.

“I really hope they get Tierney because I think he’s a real quality player. Hector Bellerin is back on the training field now and he’s kicking balls, which is great, he’s really progressing well.”