Arsenal legend Alan Smith has criticised his former club’s decision to sign Nicolas Pepe in the summer of 2019 for ‘a ridiculous sum’, on his column on The Evening Standard.
Then Arsenal boss Unai Emery was desperate to sign Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. The Gunners tried hard to land the Ivorian, but his £80 million valuation proved to be too much for us.
Our former head of football Raul Sanllehi decided to strike a deal for Pepe instead that summer. The former Lille man cost us a staggering £72 million (BBC), and sadly, that hasn’t quite worked out yet.
Smith is hoping that Arsenal youngsters’ recent brilliant performances rub off on the likes of Pepe this weekend. The Gunners icon even aimed a subtle dig at Sanllehi for forking out ‘a ridiculous sum’ to buy the Ivorian.
He wrote: “Let’s hope now that the success, enthusiasm and sheer effort of the youngsters rubs off on those around them, particularly the likes of Willian and Nicolas Pepe — two figures that have often drifted through games looking disinterested.”
“We don’t actually know how good Pepe can become. Bought for a ridiculous sum (well done, Raul Sanllehi), the winger has yet to prove he can replicate his Lille form in red and white. Going further, you do have to wonder, looking at body language, how badly the lad wants to succeed.”
Arsenal might look to offload Pepe in the summer
Pepe’s talent and quality on the ball is unquestionable. The Ivorian can win a game on his own on his day, but sadly, those days have been few and far between.
Arteta has plenty of wide players at his disposal at the moment. Bukayo Saka has nailed down the right-wing spot for himeslf, while rumours are suggesting that Arsenal will go all out to sign Emi Buendia from Norwich – another right winger.
Pepe has six months to prove his worth to Arteta and everyone else at Arsenal. If he fails to do that, we might decide to cash in on him, which would be a shame as we all know how good a player he can be.