Arsenal sign Ivorian winger Pépé for club record fee

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Nicolas Pepe will wear the #19 jersey at Arsenal

Arsenal announced the signing of winger Nicolas Pépé from French side Lille on Thursday, for a club-record fee reported to be £72 million.

The deal for the 24-year-old Ivory Coast international eclipses the £56 million spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018, as the Gunners add another attacking option to their ranks.

Pépé becomes the most expensive African player ever, and the fourth most expensive signing in Premier League history after Manchester United pair Paul Pogba (£89 mllion), Romelu Lukaku (£75m) and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (£75m).

Ivorian winger Nicolas Pépé becomes Africa’s most expensive player in history.

The 24-year-old rose through the ranks in France and acquired a growing band of admirers, with Arsenal winning the race after having a 72-million-pound offer accepted by Lille.

He is a player that thrives on the counter, scoring six goals and attempting 15 shots from fast breaks last season. He is a also nuisance to defend against – as highlighted by the 108 fouls won, the most in French Ligue 1 last term.

The forward, who will wear the number 19 shirt, will add firepower to an Arsenal attack that saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette score 50 goals between them in all competitions last season.

Arsenals new attack of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and new record signing Nicolas Pépé

The length of Pépé’s deal at the Emirates Stadium is believed to be five years. The left-footed right winger, 24, cost Arsenal just £20m up front, with £52m set to paid in installments over five years.

The deal will allow Arsenal to free up more transfer funds this summer in order to conclude deals for more targets. The Gunners have just £45m to work with this summer.

Despite that, they’ve already landed a £15m loan deal for Dani Ceballos and the £6m capture of Gabriel Martinelli.

Also, promising French defender William Saliba — who will spend the 2019/20 campaign back on loan at St Etienne — was signed for £27m, of which an initial payment of £3m was made.

Arsenal Head Coach Unai Emery

“Nicolas is a highly rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” Arsenal Head Coach Unai Emery said.

“Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining.”

“He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team,” he added.

The Ivory Coast international emerged as one of this summer’s most sought after players after scoring 22 goals in the league last season.

He was behind only PSG’s Kylian Mbappé in the Ligue 1 scoring charts as Lille finished second to qualify for the Champions League.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel made his admiration for the Ivory Coast forward clear. Liverpool, Manchester United and Napoli were also keen on the player, but his agent decided that Unai Emery’s project is the best for the 24-year-old.

 

Pépé scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last season at Lille

“Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me,” Pépé said in an interview on Arsenal’s website, describing himself as “quick and a good finisher.”

“I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward.”

Pépé said he was looking forward to playing alongside Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil.

Mesut Ozil (L), Alexandre Lacazette (M) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R)

“Of course, these are the players who sprang to mind because I used to watch them when I was at Lille,” Pépé said.

“Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him and it will be an honour to play alongside him.”

Nicolas Pépé

Arsenal finished a fifth in the Premier League in Emery’s first season in charge, missing out on Champions League qualification for the third year in a row.

Their first match of the Premier League campaign is away at Newcastle on August 11.

FAN RECEPTION

Nicolas Pépé’s imminent arrival has left Arsenal fans excited for the 2019/20 English Premier League campaign.

Arsenal fans worldwide have been craving for a more direct winger to aid Aubameyang and Lacazette in attack, with Ozil orchestrating play in midfield.

Nicolas Pépé in Arsenal training

One of the most exciting wingers in the game right now has arrived at Arsenal and this is a huge statement of intent from the club, that agonizingly missed out on their last chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, by failing to beat London rivals Chelsea, in the Europa league final.

If they can pull off some major defensive signings, they would be more capable of competing for the EPL title all the way to the end — after years of failing to mount a serious title challenge.

Nigerian Arsenal fan and a regular on ArsenalFanTV, Dr. Kelechi Anyikude, who is really passionate about Arsenal helped welcome Africa’s most expensive player in history.

One way or another, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch Arsenal play this season and the gunners fans worldwide cannot wait.

Chidi Nwoke.