Arsenal are among the many admirers of Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze amid reports they are ready to do whatever it takes to let go of an existing attacker.
Chukwueze has risen through the ranks at Villarreal to become an integral first-team player. He has just completed his most prolific season yet, in which he scored 13 goals from 50 appearances. It was the first time in his career that he hit double figures in all competitions.
But since his contract is only due to last until 2024, it could have been his last campaign with Villarreal. His current employers might have to sell him this summer if he fails to renew his commitment to them.
Consequently, a range of clubs are keeping tabs on Chukwueze. According to Calciomercato, he has become a top target for AC Milan – but is also wanted by Arsenal.
The Italian report also mentions Liverpool, Aston Villa (managed by Chukwueze’s former Villarreal boss Unai Emery, who was of course once in charge of the Gunners), West Ham and Real Madrid as rival suitors for the 24-year-old.
However, of his four admirers in the Premier League, Arsenal are the only ones who would be able to offer Chukwueze involvement in the Champions League next season. Madrid and Milan would too, for what it’s worth.
While sources abroad link Chukwueze with Arsenal, reports closer to home are revealing one of the wingers already on their books has no future at the club.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Arsenal are completely against the idea of reintegrating Nicolas Pepe after his loan spell at Nice.
Pepe remains Arsenal’s record signing – although he could be overtaken by Declan Rice this summer – but failed to live up to expectations after his arrival in 2019.
Like Chukwueze at Villarreal, Pepe only has a year remaining on his contract with Arsenal. And the Telegraph claims he will either be sold or released this summer.
In an ideal world, Arsenal will recoup a transfer fee for the 28-year-old. However, they have no chance of getting their £72m investment back.
Therefore, the report claims Arsenal want to ‘generate a transfer fee, however small’ for the Ivory Coast international. They are clearly open to offers.
If no appropriate bid comes in (Nice have already ruled themselves out of keeping Pepe on a permanent basis, for some perspective), they might take action by terminating Pepe’s contract a year early by the end of the summer.
Comparing Chukwueze and Pepe this season
This season, Arsenal’s main wingers were Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. They also had Reiss Nelson as a backup and brought Leandro Trossard into the fold in January.
Adding Chukwueze into the mix could be an interesting statement of intent by Arsenal. Furthermore, it seems like the necessary option to disassociate themselves from Pepe.
In the season just gone, Pepe scored eight goals from 28 games, giving him a goals-to-games ratio of around 0.29.
As stated, Chukwueze got 13 goals from 50 games, making his ratio 0.26. Therefore, they are similar in terms of their efficiency in front of goal.
What sets Chukwueze apart is the fact he provided 11 assists as well, whereas Pepe only set up one goal for a teammate. In other words, the Nigerian contributes to a goal about every other game, whereas the Ivorian tends to take three games to do so.
The one thing Arsenal would have to consider is that, like Pepe, Chukwueze is a left-footed forward who likes to cut in from the right-hand side. Obviously, Saka has made that territory his own in recent years.
The 21-year-old got 15 goals and 11 assists from 48 appearances this season, which is superior even to Chukwueze’s rate of goal contributions.
Much will depend on the transfer fee and Arsenal’s tactical plans to see whether the move would really be worth it. But while they have outlined themselves as an attractive destination after finishing as runners up in the Premier League, it might be the time to strike for elite targets.