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Emery explains why Pepe was signed ahead of Zaha

Former Arsenal boss lifts the lid on why Pepe was signed ahead of Zaha

May 15, 2020 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The old boss of the Gunners has come clean with the reason why the Crystal Palace winger was ditched for his compatriot.

Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery has explained why Nicolas Pepe was signed instead of Wilfred Zaha in last summer's transfer window. The latter was heavily linked with a move to the Emirates but ended up staying at Crystal Palace after the deal fell through.

Prior to the commencement of the 2019/2020 Premier League season, Arsenal was believed to be in the market for a winger. While a number of players were reportedly shortlisted, Wilfred Zaha led the pack of likeliest candidates to be recruited for the North London club.

Nevertheless, the deal which would have seen the Ivorian international become a Gunner never materialized. Instead, the club broke its transfer record to secure the service of Pepe for £72 million ($87 million).

The arrival of the winger, who scored 23 goals in all competitions in his final season at Lille, has failed to fuel excitement. In the quest to settle in and play up to the standard associated with his price tag, the player has managed just six goals in 32 matches this season.

In retrospect, Pepe's failure to hit the ground running increased the pressure on Unai Emery who had spent over £100 million in the transfer window. The Spanish manager was subsequently sacked and replaced with Mikel Arteta after winning four of Arsenal's opening 13 matches.

According to Emery, Wilfred Zaha was his preferred choice but the club ruled out his transfer and opted for Pepe instead. "We signed Pepe," he told The Guardian.

"He's a good player but we didn't know his character and he needs time, patience.

"I favored someone who knew the league and wouldn't need to adapt. Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: 'This is the player I know and want.'

"I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: 'Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.' He beat us on his own."

"It's also true he was expensive and Palace didn't want to sell," Emery added.

"There were a series of decisions that had repercussions."


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