Nicolas Pepe set for medical as Arsenal seal £72m deal, with Arsenal set to break transfer record for 24-year-old
The 24-year-old is set to become an Arsenal player this week and would be the Gunners’ fourth and biggest signing of the summer, following forward Gabriel Martinelli, midfielder Dani Ceballos, who joined on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, and defender William Saliba, who was signed from St Etienne for £27m and immediately loaned back to the Ligue 1 side.
Pepe scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season, second only to Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, while also providing 11 assists, also the second most in the division, as Lille finished runners-up to PSG.
He was the first Lille player to score 20 league goals since Eden Hazard in the 2011-12 season.
‘It was reported earlier this summer that Arsenal’s budget was around £45m after missing out on qualifying for the Champions League. However, Pepe looks set to cost £72m plus add-ons, while they have also signed Dani Ceballos on loan and William Saliba for £27m, and are hoping to sign Kieran Tierney from Celtic.
‘Then there’s Zaha, who Arsenal tried to sign this summer, only to see a £40m bid rejected by Crystal Palace, who value him closer to £80m.
First and foremost, Arsenal look like they might have more money to spend this summer than was reported at the end of the season.
Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol gave an insight earlier this month when he said on the Transfer Talk show: “What I have been told is that it suits Arsenal that people think they only have £45m, because when they get into negotiations over a player, the selling club is going to think Arsenal don’t have much money.
“What I have been told is that this is a bit of a smokescreen… We just have to take it with a pinch of salt that Arsenal only have £45m. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
This has been backed up with comments from Arsenal’s managing director Vinai Venkatesham.
“The numbers never come from us. We never ever, ever, ever talk about how much money we have to spend because that’s the least helpful thing you can do.
So could Arsenal have signed Zaha, Maybe…and maybe they still will.
However, the key difference between the potential deals for Pepe and Zaha is that Arsenal are able to pay Lille in instalments to spread the cost over the next few years, rather than paying the £72m as a lump sum this summer.
Palace did not appear to be as open to this.
You might remember that Palace rejected a bid from Manchester United for Aaron Wan-Bissaka earlier in the summer worth an initial £35m, with additional payments totalling to £15m. Palace preferred more money up front – and they eventually got it.
It seems Arsenal were not willing to do the same and offer more money up front for Zaha.
But would Arsenal have preferred Zaha to Pepe, Zaha was believed to be Arsenal’s first choice, but they did not go back to the negotiating table after having a £40m offer rejected earlier this month.
epe has some similar characteristics to Zaha (pace, a willingness to run at defenders and the ability to beat defenders), but Pepe provided far more goals and assists last season. Pepe is also two years younger than Zaha so Arsenal may see more potential in him.
Both players have been deployed as strikers at times at their respective clubs, but Pepe has been at his best playing on the right side of the attack, where he can cut inside onto his left foot. He is a forward-thinking player, who ranked third for dribbles in Ligue 1 last season, and his speed means he is also a huge threat on the break.