Darren Bent has defended Nicolas Pepe’s record as an Arsenal player.

Arsenal paid a then-club-record £72 million to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille in 2019. However, the move didn’t pan out as planned, and Pepe quickly fell out of the starting XI after Mikel Arteta took charge at the Emirates Stadium.

Pepe doesn’t lack talent, but stylistically he was unsuitable for Arteta’s vision. The emergence of Bukayo Saka further damaged his chances of regular game time for Arsenal.

Pepe spent last season on loan with Nice, but was unable to rediscover the kind of form in Ligue 1 that convinced the Gunners to invest so heavily in his services in the first place.

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However, the Ivorian winger did show flashes of his quality in his early days in north London. He managed 24 goals in all competitions across his first two seasons with the club, and played a key role in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph of 2020.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Final
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Bent offers alternative take on Pepe

Although his move to Arsenal can’t be considered a successful transfer, it arguably wasn’t the unmitigated disaster it has come to be viewed as by many. Certainly, when matched up against comparable recent transfers, Pepe’s impact at Arsenal looks relatively decent.

Ex-Aston Villa striker Darren Bent made precisely this point when comparing Pepe’s Arsenal career with the impact that Jadon Sancho and Antony have had at Manchester United.

The Red Devils paid £73 million for Sancho in 2021, and then parted with £85 million to bring Antony to Old Trafford a year later. Both have since struggled to impress after a combined spend of £158 million.

Speaking on TalkSport, Bent said, “Pepe at Arsenal: 112 appearances, 27 goals, 21 assists…Antony and Sancho at United combined: 127 apps, 20 goals, and 9 assists…you were saying Pepe was the biggest flop, but look at his stats compared to them two.”

Pepe has undeniably underwhelmed and struggled at Arsenal, but perhaps Manchester United have had it worse. At least there is more time for Sancho and Antony to come good. Pepe is 28-years-old and heading into the final year of his contract with the Gunners.

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