Nicolas Pepe signed for Arsenal for a record £72 million fee and has been so far unable to hit the heights expected of him considering comparable signings made for significantly lesser figures.
However, should that be the Ivorian’s fault? After all, he didn’t control how much the club paid for him.
The 26-year-old has lost his place in the Arsenal starting XI, with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe seemingly cementing their status as regular starters in Mikel Arteta’s side.
Both Saka and Smith Rowe have played a key role in Arsenal’s recent upturn in form, though Pepe has been left on the fringes of first-team action. The 26-year-old was an unused substitute in the recent 1-0 win over Watford and has played just five minutes of Premier League football in the Gunners’ last three league outings.
Debate has sparked amongst The Arsenal Way writers as to whether Pepe should be moved on in upcoming transfer windows and how much the club should be demanding if they do cut ties. Tom Canton suggests a figure as low as £25 million would tempt him into selling whilst Bailey Keogh does not share the same view.
Bailey Keogh, The Arsenal Way Writer/Presenter
Pepe has struggled to perform so far this season, there’s no doubting that.
When you consider his time at the club and how he has failed to really leave his mark on the Premier League, I am more than open to selling him.
But £25 million is way too low an asking price considering how much we initially paid for him.
The Ivorian is still only 26, meaning he has a lot of time to grow and has not yet reached his peak.
Whether his growth is at Arsenal or another club, slashing his value by £50 million is too much.
Pepe could go on a magnificent run of form towards the end of the season, similar to how Alexandre Lacazette has revived his Gunners’ career and this would mean Arsenal could command a higher fee if they did decide to cash in.
It’s way too soon to accept a £50 million on him.
He’s shown glimpses of excellence, albeit inconsistently, during his time at the club but selling now while he is in the worst of form since his Premier League switch would be bad business by the club.
If we haven’t seen an improvement in form come the end of the season then it may be wise but I am sure that will not be the case, as he will be given more opportunities under Arteta.
Tom, The Arsenal Way Writer/Presenter
I understand that a £25 million sale for a player we paid nearly three times as much for may seem, at first glance, rather hyperbolic. However, who is going to pay more for a player who has regressed since leaving Ligue 1 side Lille?
The bottom line is that the club should be looking to upgrade on Pepe as an option to compete with Saka, Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli for a wide position.
Three players all 21 or younger should not have found it as easy as they have to dislodge the former Angers winger. If Arsenal want to push towards their target of a Champions League spot and establish themselves in the top four once again, they are going to need far more consistent performers at their disposal.
Pepe is not a bad player. It is important to emphasise this so that these words are not misconstrued as some form of criticism. 18 goal contributions in his first season was a good return, however, when considering the output in the Premier League these numbers drop considerably.
While people may argue that Pepe’s goal contributions outweigh Saka’s, the England international provides far more in the build-up to Arsenal’s play. His ability to beat a man surpasses that of Pepe and his link-up with his teammates is much more effective.
Furthermore, much of Saka’s time in the Arsenal side has seen him forced into a left-wing role to accommodate Pepe and so it is unfair to draw direct number comparisons.
Arsenal simply need better. It will be difficult to identify a player who can guarantee us more than Pepe and that is a testament to him, but it also does not mean we shouldn’t look to find that player.
If January comes around and we can bring in £25 million and identify a replacement to add more quality and consistency, we would be mad not to.
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