Premier League • England

Arsenal could rip up the contract of £72m outcast as Arteta plans to axe up to seven players this summer

Nicolas Pepe congratulating Bukayo Saka

Arsenal are reportedly ready to offload club-record signing Nicolas Pepe this summer, but fear they may have to pay to terminate his contract before he leaves. 

The 27-year-old winger is currently on loan at French club Nice and isn’t thought to be part of Mikel Arteta’s plans for the future, despite the Gunners paying £72m for him in 2019.

However, Pepe still has another year remaining on his £140,000 per week deal at the Emirates and has so far attracted no interest from potential buyers.

Nice, who is owned by potential new Manchester United owner Sir Jim Radcliffeare thought to be fans of Pepe, but don’t want to pay a transfer fee to sign him.

The Ivory Coast international’s astronomical wages are also thought to be a ‘stumbling block’ to any potential departure and Arsenal could therefore be forced to pay at least some of the £7m he is still due from his contract, according to the Sun.

Pepe is just one of seven players that Arteta is allegedly considering axing this summer, with the futures of Folarin Balogun, Kieran Tierney, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, Cedric Soares all in doubt.

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Pepe could be the latest name to leave Arsenal for free

Since Arteta took over as Arsenal manager in 2019, he has overseen the departure of several big-name stars on free transfers, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as well as others, all leaving the club for no fee.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pepe join that list either, given he has done very little recently to justify his enormous £72m price tag, failing to start a Premier League game since October 2021.

Overall, in 112 appearances for the Gunners, the winger has scored 27 goals and made 21 assists, giving him an average of 0.43 goal contributions per game.

Given the recent performances of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard, it seems highly unlikely that Pepe would be able to break into Arteta’s starting XI again.

The Spanish manager is currently guiding Arsenal towards their first Premier League title since 2004, with his team currently sitting top of the table, eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City.

However, the Gunners will still look to add to their squad this summer to compensate for departures, with the London giants being linked with several high-profile targets.

One of these is West Ham United captain Declan Rice, who has grown frustrated by his team’s recent poor performances under David Moyes and has admitted that he wants to compete for major trophies.

Offloading Pepe would help Arsenal free up some funds to bring in players like Rice, but first, it looks like they will be forced to pay a hefty sum to prematurely terminate his lucrative contract.

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