Nicolas Pepe and Arsenal. An expensive marriage that started all so well with moments of brilliance along the way, yet the love slowly burning out — a desperate protracted divorce the only option.
It’s a mighty fall indeed from a £72million coup under Unai Emery, to now being shipped off to Turkish side Trabzonspor for a mere £3million.
Yet the writing was on the wall in July. Mikel Arteta had already decided the Frenchman was not in his plans, so didn’t need to be on the club’s pre-season tour of the US.
There was space in the 29-man squad for Auston Trusty (since been sold to Sheffield United) and Marquinhos (now on loan to Nantes) but not Pepe. His performances on loan at Nice last season were not to Arteta’s fulfilment.
In New York, Arteta said: ‘He had a spell on loan and we wanted to get more from that loan spell. We’ll have to see when he comes back. Have a chat with him, understand what his plans are and make a decision.’
Nicolas Pepe is set to end his Arsenal hell by signing for Turkish side Trabzonspor this week
Mikel Arteta has made it clear that Pepe was no longer in his plans while he was Gunners boss
Even on the club’s return to London, Arteta had agreed the 28-year-old should not be with the first team training. It has meant the club in the past month have been frantically trying to find a new club for the winger.
Turkish interest had rumbled on for weeks, and it is understood the player’s salary was the main obstacle.
At a reported £140,000-per-week, just two weeks ago the Gunners were contemplating ripping up his contract in a bid to get his salary off the wage bill.
It is an expected ending to an Arsenal career which had its moments.
Many a Gooner can still recall Pepe’s home debut against Burnley in August 2019. Signs of much promise were there as he turned the Clarets’ backline time and again, while causing a nuisance on the right flank with sheer pace.
Much was of course expected. His fee is still Arsenal’s second-highest record signing, only Declan Rice’s £105million usurping it.
There weren’t too many standout moments for Pepe in Arsenal shirt since signing in 2019
The rise of Bukayo Saka has seen Pepe struggle to get game time in the Gunners first team
Crucially, though, he was an Emery signing, not Arteta’s. Arteta had initially tried to persist with the 28-year-old, who was keen to adapt to the Spaniard’s possession-based structure.
Though this proved a frustration for him. The rise of Bukayo Saka had also made opportunities on the right wing redundant.
Pepe does leave fans with some stellar performances such as the two free-kicks struck against Vitoria de Guimaraes in the Europa League to win 3-2, and his sublime curling effort against Brighton behind-closed-doors in June 2020.
One can only hope the winger finds that spark once again.
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