Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery can feel vindicated over his decision to leave Nicolas Pepe largely on the sidelines at the Emirates. Since the Spaniard’s departure, the former Lille star ahs failed to kick on under Mikel Arteta with the Gunners manager now left to pick up the pieces.
Arsenal star Pepe has failed to make much of an impression at the Emirates in his second season in the Premier League.
With Bukayo Saka moving over to the right-flank, the Ivory Coast international is arguably now third-choice behind Willian.
Pepe signed from Lille for a club-record fee of £72m in the summer of 2019 but was not Emery’s first pick, who was manager at the time.
What followed was a largely disappointing campaign, where the forward scored just five times in the Premier League.
That could be put down to a tough settling-down period but Pepe has failed to improve under Arteta, netting just two league goals this season.
Pepe’s woes are in stark contrast to the man Emery did want to sign – Wilfried Zaha.
The Crystal Palace star was first-choice but Arsenal chiefs were not convinced, instead making a move for his compatriot Pepe.
Zaha spoke candidly to the Great Games Podcast over Emery’s efforts to sign him, admitting he was keen on a move to the Gunners.
He said: “I had a conversation with the manager actually, and he was like we don’t really need to go through much.
“He’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff that and he was like ‘yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like ‘I’d love to come.
“The conversation was rather straight forward because I’ve played against him when he’s managed Arsenal and he’s seen what I can do. He sees my work rate and what I can add to the team.
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose. And they chose Pepe over me.”
Emery backed up these claims, insisting Zaha was so good he could win games on his own for Arsenal, while also lambasting Pepe.
“We signed Pepe,” the now-Villarreal boss told The Guardian “He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience.
“I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt. Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’
“I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.’ He beat us on his own.”