Off the back of a debut season with Arsenal where he notched 8 goals and 10 assists, Nicolas Pepe finds himself in something of an awkward situation. The time is now for the Ivorian to justify his £72 million price tag.
Despite it being the off season and a time when Nicolas Pépé’s future with Arsenal looks to be secure, the 25-year-old still finds himself at the centre of attention within the British media. The key reason for this being Raul Sanllehi’s sacking.
Reports from various outlets, including ESPN, have suggested that Arsenal’s former head of football overpaid for Pépé and this was a key reason for why he received his marching orders on Saturday. Something like that must be difficult for Pépé to digest.
Lille’s president, Gerard Lopez, has suggested that such rumours are false. Lopez believes the reported investigation into Pépé’s transfer fee is “made up stuff.”
Even if an enquiry did take place, it probably had nothing to do with Pépé performance this year. The Athletic’s article which took a deeper look into Sanllehi’s sacking infers that the club are unhappy with the influence of agents at Arsenal and as such were likely to have been curious to see how much money was paid to agents through the Pépé deal.
Some sources have gone as far to say £22 million was pocketed by various intermediaries. This is what would’ve forced the board’s hand, not the other £50 million spent on Pépé.
Still, as British journalists tend to, they have pointed the finger towards the expensive footballer. A player that The Sun are insinuating is now under immense pressure at Arsenal due to the arrival of Willian.
Quite frankly, this just isn’t the truth. Willian has been brought in to provide another option in a number of different roles, not just on right-wing. Willian could in fact prove to be a great mentor for Pépé as a seasoned Premier League winger. Pépé is entering his prime whilst Willian is entering the business end of his career. Willian is not a replacement for Pépé.
Nonetheless, the opportunity is still there for Pépé to prove his doubters wrong. Gerard Lopez pointed out in his interview with Sky Sports that Pépé “took one season to click within our [Lille’s] system” so hopefully the same will happen for the Ivorian with Arsenal this coming season. Certainly, towards the end of the season, he looked like he was becoming a real threat for Arsenal.
Of course, he needs to offer more if he is going to justify the huge price tag we paid to bring him to the Emirates. However, Lopez maintains that he thinks “the best is yet to come” for the 25-year-old at Arsenal. All the signs suggest Pépé will push on for Arsenal next year.
Under Mikel Arteta, Pépé has a manager who clearly has great trust in him. On top of this, we have seen glimpses of brilliance from our record signing and it looks as if he is finally finding his feet in England. With some better players in and around him alongside a bit more consistency, we could see a truly unleashed Nicolas Pépé during the 20/21 campaign.
Over to you, Nico.