Premier League • England

Bukayo Saka subplot prompts Arsenal to adjust stance over Nicolas Pepe transfer

Nicolas Pepe congratulating Bukayo Saka

Nicolas Pepe could be sacrificed by Arsenal for a “significant” discount in order to free up funds to improve the contract of Bukayo Saka, according to a reporter.

Arsenal face an intriguing summer as they look to reshape their squad. They improved this season, but fell short of the Champions League places late in the campaign. By acting smartly in the summer, though, they could make further progress.

In that regard, some signings will be important. But just as pivotal will be their ability to retain some of their key players.

One of their leading stars is Saka, who came through their academy before establishing himself as a first-team force.

The wide man played in all 38 of their Premier League games in 2021-22, contributing 11 goals and seven assists. He also scored once from five appearances in the domestic cups.

Under contract until 2024, Arsenal must work quickly to keep Saka in the long-term. The England international has already attracted interest from a number of clubs who have been able to secure Champions League football.

To compete with them, Arsenal may need to give Saka an increase on the salary he agreed to when signing his current contract in 2020.

But without the bigger funds that would have come their way with a top-four finish, they will have to get creative in how to afford that plan.

Several players will be sold; Tuesday’s transfer gossip indicated fringe or loan players like Konstantinos Mavropanos, Matteo Guendouzi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno, Pablo Mari and Hector Bellerin will be sold.

But another man who could be on his way out is club-record signing Pepe.

Pepe hints at Arsenal exit again

Pepe hints at Arsenal exit again

Nicholas Pepe has again hinted at leaving Arsenal but where would he go?

Things have not gone to plan for the winger since his 2019 move from Lille. His goal tallies from his three seasons for the club are eight, 16 and three respectively.

Since he, like Saka, is only under contract for another two years, now may be the time to cut their losses.

Saka contract more important for Arsenal

The idea of a transfer is already materialising in Pepe’s mind. Indeed, the Ivorian recently changed his agent with a view to overseeing a move away.

Now, transfer reporter Fabrizio Romano has confirmed Arsenal could sell Pepe to clear the wage bill for Saka’s new deal.

Romano told CaughtOffside: “Nicolas Pepe is a player that Arsenal consider available on the transfer market.

“Pepe has chosen a new agent recently precisely because he wants to explore different possibilities in the summer, while Arsenal want to invest in Bukayo Saka’s new contract and some funds could also come from Pepe.

“Of course, getting the same amount paid to buy him from Lille is almost impossible; Arsenal are conceding that the Ivory Coast international will have to be made available for a discount, and possibly quite a significant one.”

Time right for Nicolas Pepe to move on

Sadly, Pepe has been unable to prove his worth in the Premier League. But he may get an opportunity to revive his career away from Arsenal.

Turning 27 soon, that will be important at this stage of his career. And it would also benefit Arsenal if it helps them keep Saka.

Saka should be more successful in the long-term, so Arsenal need to keep him around.

Losing an inconsistent player like Pepe would not be too much of a sacrifice. That said, there may be a sense of what might have been.

But Arsenal will have to be ruthless in some ways to keep closing the gap with the clubs above them.

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