REVEALED: Arsenal prioritised £72m Nicolas Pepe transfer over sorting dodgy defence because they believe his pace and finishing can rescue their awful away form
- Arsenal have finally announced the £72million signing of Nicolas Pepe
- The pacey winger has joined from Lille, and is seen as a vital acquisition
- Arsenal’s away form was only the eighth-best in the league last season
- Those dropped points cost them dearly as they missed the Champions League
- It is thought at the club that Pepe’s pace will help unlock teams on the counter
Arsenal’s stunning club-record capture of Nicolas Pepe was prioritised in the hope that he will help cure their travel sickness.
Although their defensive issues need addressing urgently, the £72million move for Pepe was completed first, and he has signed a five-year deal.
Arsenal’s form on the road last season was a major handicap and the reason why they missed out on the Champions League. Yet this pacey forward, rather than a solid centre-back, is seen as the player who could provide the solution.
Nicolas Pepe has signed for Arsenal in a club-record £72million transfer from Lille
Pepe is a fast and direct winger, and Arsenal believe he is the answer to a big problem
While they were the Premier League’s third best side at home with 45 points last season, Arsenal picked up just 25 away from the Emirates Stadium, losing eight times and drawing four matches, giving them the eighth-best record in the division.
Arsenal finished just a point outside the top four and failing to qualify for the Champions League put a significant dent in their transfer budget this summer.
Arsenal were fully aware their defence needs strengthening this summer but, as a result of their damaging away form, prioritised adding players who will help them break teams down away from home during this window.
They moved for Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha first, failing with a £40m bid and follow-up approaches that included offering players plus cash.
But in two of the players they have secured, creative midfielder Dani Ceballos and Pepe, who is renowned for his pace and finishing ability, Emery is confident his side will now carry greater threat on the road and be able to overcome the struggles they faced last season.
Emery will now focus on trying to strengthen his defence with what is left of his budget.
Unai Emery has seen his side struggle on the road, and wants to turn around their away form
The Gunners fell apart on the road last season and missed out on the Champions League
Arsenal are closing in on a £25m deal for Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, having restructured their offer after seeing two bids rejected and also want a senior centre-back.
Their backline will also be further reinforced by the returns from injury of Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin who have both been sidelined with serious knee injuries.
No matter who else joins, Arsenal have made a real statement of intent by capturing Pepe, whose breakout season last term put him on the radar of Europe’s top clubs.
The north Londoners were among a number of sides alerted to the forward who scored 23 times in 40 appearances for Lille and he was high on their list of attacking targets heading into this transfer window.
The concern was whether they could land him amid such fierce competition. This season they are also unable to offer the lure of Champions League football to prospective signings.
Celtic left back Kieran Tierney is seen as one player to help plug their leaky defence
But Arsenal have prioritised Pepe, a forward, over making defensive reinforcements
But once they received sufficient encouragement that Pepe wanted to move to the Emirates and Lille were open to a structured deal that worked with Arsenal’s financial situation they put the wheels in motion to bring him to the Emirates.
Arsenal will pay an initial £20m with the remaining £52m spread over the next five years.
Alongside 18 year-old French defender William Saliba, who will spend the season on loan back at St Etienne, Arsenal have managed to sign two of Europe’s brightest young talents in one summer.