When a club shells out a fee in the region of £70m, it is expected the signing is a surefire thing. A player who has been scouted heavily, and is seen as both the right personality and footballing profile for the club they are joining. When Arsenal ‘beat’ the competition for Nicolas Pepe, though, some fans were not sure.
That summer, links to every major club in Europe was both suggested and then denied. Liverpool, in fact, took the unprecedented step of making an actual statement to say they didn’t want the player.
Alarm bells, then, should have been ringing. What was the problem with Pepe that meant nobody wanted to make a move? Arsenal fans now know. The player thrives only in space, and has barely developed or improved an inch since arriving in North London. A record signing who was immediately distrusted by new coach Mikel Arteta, after the coach who signed him, Unai Emery, was sacked, Pepe never had a chance.
Now, he is back in the familiar world of Ligue 1, joining OCG Nice on a year long loan. Arsenal will hope the player can find some form in a more counter-attacking team, which Nice are. If he can, they can then try to sell him for some kind of return in the summer of 2023. Right now, they would literally need to give the player away so low is his current stock.
Confirming the loan and wishing the player all the best, Arsenal are now set to start building without their record signing. The player never managed to really do much in red, albeit he did set up the winner in the 2020 FA Cup Final. That aside, though, the player achieved very little overall.
Arsenal not expecting to see Pepe again
The player, who played just 112 games for Arsenal, scored a paltry 27 goals. Reports earlier in the summer that a change of agent had seen Pepe commit to hanging around and fighting for his place was met with irritation by former Arsenal players.
One ex-Gunner, Kevin Campbell, slated the Ivorian, saying: ‘How all of a sudden is it that he is different now because he has changed agents? You play for Arsenal. Your attitude and everything should be right from day one.
‘This is the problem. This is why these players have to leave. I think he’s got to go. No disrespect, we have seen him influence some games last season and the season before, but the attitude is the one that gets questioned all the time.
‘That’s why Saka has run away with that position – Pepe said ‘I will pull my socks up now’. It’s too late. We shouldn’t be hearing that at Arsenal.’
It marks the end of what is likely one of the biggest mistakes in the club’s transfer history. While fans will be keen to see the club move on, it hopefully serves as a lesson for future transfer decisions. When so many other clubs appear to see red flags in a player, do not take the risk.