Summer is just around the corner, which means one thing for football fans: transfers. A lot of big names will be on the move. But while you’re checking the official Irish Lottery results for an increase in your own budget, the news has been buzzing about who Arsenal might sign, and if that will be financed by the departure of Nicolas Pépé.
Who is Nicolas Pépé?
Nicolas (“Nico”) Pépé was born in Mantes-la-Jolie, France, on May 29th, 1995. He started as a goalkeeper for Solitaire Paris Est when he was 14 but transferred to Poitiers FC when his father had to move for work. After 9 appearances and 2 goals he moved to Anger, helping them win promotion to Ligue 1. He dropped back to the third tier for a loan season at Orléans, before returning to Anger and helping them reach the final of the French cup, losing to PSG. In 2017 he moved to Lille in a deal worth up to €10 million. His performances there alerted foreign clubs, with Barcelona said to be interested. He has dual citizenship for France and the Ivory Coast and made his debut for the Ivory Coast national team in 2016. He’s made 34 international appearances but was dropped from his country’s key quarter final match in the Africa Cup of Nations, where they lost in a penalty shoot-out.
Pépé became Arsenal’s record signing in 2019 after leaving the FC Lille. And yet, the football player wants to change clubs two years before his contract is set to expire. There are many hints that Pépé is leaving due to how Arsenal has treated him. Let’s look at why that might be.
What Did Arsenal Do?
Arsenal signed Pépé for £72 million in 2019. This broke the previous record of €62 million for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. And yet Arsenal are said to be willing to sell Pépé for as little as £25 million – well under half of what they paid for him. Why?
Arsenal’s current coach, Mikel Arteta, doesn’t seem keen on utilising Pépé’s talents to their fullest. Pépé has been on the bench for many of Arsenal’s games in 2021-22, with Arteta hesitating to use Pépé at the start of games. Actions speak louder than words; between Arteta’s behaviour and the steep price drop, it’s clear that Pépé is, as the Mirror describes it, “expendable” to Arsenal. This is despite Pépé contributing a total of 111 appearances, 27 goals, and 20 assists for the club.
Yet Arsenal seem to want him gone. They are eying players like Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans. Any money they get from selling Pépé will be used, according to an interview in the Daily Mail, to “rebalance the squad.”
The Arsenal move has not worked out for Pépé, who feels sidelined. Nobody wants to be seen as expendable, and he feels he has performed when asked to. His five-year contract was set to expire in June 2024, but he is likely to leave two years early.
Does it matter if Pépé leaves?
This deal mostly matters because Pépé is Arsenal’s record signing and so much was expected of him. Arsenal paid a lot for him, and they could be squandering their investment. When Pépé gets to play, he can be amazing, but Arteta has not found a place for him in the starting line-up on a regular basis. Pépé has asked his agent for other options and will probably move to a French club such as Poitiers, Angers or Lille—all of which he has played for in the past.
Pépé should be worth a lot of money and sometimes demonstrates this, but he doesn’t feel Arsenal are using him to his fullest potential. This was one business relationship that, for whatever reason, did not work out—and unfortunately for Arsenal it happened to come with a hefty price tag.
Pépé leaving Arsenal is concerning due to the amount of money Arsenal spent on him, but it’s nothing that anyone will be floored by. Pépé wants to leave, and Arsenal will of course replace him. It’s unfortunately simply a deal that did not work out for anybody.