Premier League • England

Arsenal chief hints time is up for two stars at the Emirates; hopeful on Nicolas Pepe resolution

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal academy director, Per Mertesacker, has hinted two Gunners stars may “need to go somewhere else”, though explained why he’s hopeful Nicolas Pepe can prove the doubters wrong.

Pepe remains Arsenal’s record signing at an eye-watering £72m. However, the Ivory Coast international has never lived up to the price tag and saw his influence wane last season.

Indeed, Pepe accrued just 20 league appearances with Bukayo Saka becoming the undisputed first choice right winger.

Arsenal were also in the mix to sign Raphinha, thus indicating Pepe’s time in north London could soon be up.

The Sun recently claimed Pepe is among a seven-strong list of Arsenal stars up for sale this summer. While they’d be unlikely to recoup the full £72m, even generating half that amount would greatly aid Mikel Arteta’s transfer plans.

However, speaking to Sky Sports News, Mertesacker claimed Pepe still has “major potential” that is yet to be unlocked. If Mertesacker had his way, Pepe would stay and be given a chance to finally prove his worth.

Mertesacker not giving up on Nicolas Pepe

“I saw throughout the three weeks that I was coaching the first team that he has major potential,” said Mertesacker. “Hopefully we can see that at Arsenal.”

The outlook for Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles may not be as rosy.

The pair were both loaned out last season to Feyenoord and Roma respectively. They have returned to north London this summer, though Mertesacker hinted the duo may need to seek moves away if they’re to take the next step in their careers.

“To see them in the leagues of Europe – they went to Holland and Italy – it was a fantastic experience for them,” added the academy director.

“Hopefully they’ll see the benefit of it, whether that is here with us or whether they need to go somewhere else, that is obviously the decision of Edu and Mikel Arteta.”

Will Arsenal axe all three?

Arsenal have already forked out upwards of £80m on Matt Turner, Marquinhos, Fabio Vieira and Gabriel Jesus. However, question marks still remain in Arteta’s squad.

A left-sided defender is a priority and Lisandro Martinez had emerged as a viable candidate. However, competition for the Ajax star comes in the form of Man Utd who have the Erik ten Hag connection aiding their cause.

Alex Grimaldo has emerged as a cost-effective alternative, while central midfield must also be addressed.

Leicester’s Youri Tielemans could be available for around the £30m mark given he only has one year left at the King Power. Selling Pepe, Nelson and Maitland-Niles would cover that cost in its entirety and leave Arsenal with plenty in reserve.

What’s more, both Maitland-Niles and Nelson will see their Arsenal contracts expire next summer. Given they have never been more than squad players, common sense would dictate new deals won’t be forthcoming.

Clearly, the current window is the ideal time to cash in.