It was not long since Arsenal chose to sign Nicolas Pepe over Wilfried Zaha for a club record fee of £ 72 million. It was the wrong decision at the time (obviously) but trying to correct that mistake now would be irresponsible given that the Gunners clearly have much more pressing issues that need to be addressed.
As was exclusively revealed by 90 minutes earlier this week, the Gunners have regained their interest in the player, but two summers on – breaking the bank for him would be very pointless.
It is fair to say that despite his huge transfer fee, the signing of Pepe has not worked. He is in and out of the page and has not been able to find anywhere near the required consistency levels.
In south London, his colleague Ivorian continues to perform after netting nine times in the Premier League this season – compared to Pepe’s five.
The club’s manager at the time has admitted that he wanted the Crystal Palace winger and the 28-year-old has since revealed talks between him and Unai Emery about a possible move.
When it came to choosing between the two players, who were both willing to join the Gunners, the fact was that Lille was more open to the idea of a structured payment plan along with the fact that Pepe was about three years younger, which meant that the decision was made Emery’s hands.
From a football perspective, it has turned out to be a terrible conversation but to have suffered a loss of close to 50 million pounds in revenue due to the pandemic and to stare at the possibility of being without European football next season in the face – Arsenal can afford to sign Zaha ?
Player sales will dictate what the club can spend this summer and with Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira among others, there is a chance that the Gunners can raise significant funds but entire areas should not be prioritized.
Nicolas Pepe and Willian have both proved inconsistent this season Pool / Getty Images
This is an area Arsenal can do to strengthen given the inconsistent form of Pepe and Willian, but the priority must be to address the midfield issue along with securing Martin Odegaard’s services for at least another season.
Whether it will be possible to achieve all of the above remains to be seen, but in the event that Arsenal can raise some money during the summer – signing Zaha should not be anywhere near the top of the priority list. His Premier League pedigree is unquestionable, for years he has proven the difference between survival and relegation for the Eagles, but with the player due to turn 29 later this year, a little over £ 40 million would feel excessive.
He would add goals from a wide area, is a competent dribbler – something the Gunners currently lack and would certainly be an upgrade over most of their current options. But unless Lacazette is sold and thus allows Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to move back to his preferred mid-forward position and leave the left wing, he would also become part of Arteta’s rotation system and represent a poor investment.