Nicolas Pepe landed in north London amid huge fanfare following his £ 72m move in 2019 but has underwhelmed during his time at the Emirates and was pushed down the pecking order by the club’s younger stars.
Few players have divided opinion and caused utter frustration than winger Nicolas Pepe. Arriving from Lille in 2019, the star winger was thought to be a life-changer for the Gunners with his pace, trickery, and goalscoring threat all pointing toward a player who can change games for his new club.
The year before he joined Arsenal, Pepe was a star in Ligue 1, netting 22 times and adding 11 assists from his 38 league games in the 2018/19 season. The year prior, he scored 14 goals and registered six assists in all competitions.
However, his form for Arsenal has been up and down like a yoyo. Looking like a world-beater and destroying opposing defences, to then barely being sighted for the next month, the Ivorian was relegated to the bench as Mikel Arteta favored the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Emile Smith Rowe.
His debut season saw him score eight times and grab ten assists in his 42 appearances in all competitions, to his best season in 2020/21 saw him net 16 times along with five assists in his 47 appearances. But this year, the wheels have well and truly fallen off.
After back-to-back years of playing over 40 games, Pepe would only feature in 23 in 2021/22, scoring just three goals and capturing six assists to leave many wondering if his future is with the club?
What should Mikel Arteta and co do with the Nicolas Pepe?
Such is Arsenal’s riches for young attacking talent; Pepe is simply not getting the game-time needed to prove he is the player who made Ligue 1 his playground just four years ago.
With no European football last season, many players found game time hard to come by, with Arsenal sometimes only playing one game a week, and when he did come on as a substitute, he was largely ineffective.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Ivorian has been the ebbs and flows of his form. He looked every bit the £ 72m player as he would terrorize defenders with his pace, skill, and direct running, but those moments have been fleeting.
The flip side was a player who virtually had no effect on the game and was anonymous for the most part. The gap between his best and worst was gigantic.
With Arsenal now competing in next season’s Europa League, the opportunity for Pepe to see considerable game time will be there if the Ivorian still calls the Emirates home come August 31.
Rumors are rapidly gathering pace that the 27-year-old wants out. If so, the club is unlikely to recoup much of the huge £ 72m paid for the winger. It is thought that Arsenal are willing to accept as little as £ 25m for Pepe as the club could cut its losses.
Having been relegated to a bit-part player at best and netting just once in 20 Premier League games this season, the writing is on the wall and according to football.london, Pepe has told his agent to find him a new club.
Likely to have a few suitors, his huge. 140,000 a week salary could provide a stumbling block as the winger is the third-highest-paid player at the Emirates, behind only Thomas Partey and Alexandre Lacazette, according to Spotrac.com.
With many fans wanting Arsenal to speed through its summer business, figuring out exactly where Pepe sits in the Gunners squad will be critical for Mikel Arteta.
But what does the Spaniard do? Cut his losses and move on or give Pepe one more chance with more game time next season? For many, that question has already been answered and it looks like Arsenal’s No.19 will be on the move this summer.