Premier League • England

‘Sell him’ – Merson tells Arsenal to take big hit on attacker amid lack of ‘consistency’

Nicolas Pepe Arsenal

Arsenal legend Paul Merson reckons the Gunners will take a big hit when they sell Nicolas Pepe in the January transfer window.

The winger arrived at the Emirates in August 2019 for a club-record £72million. He has shown glimpses of his talent but has never done it on a consistent basis for the three-time Premier League champions.

Pepe’s best season to date came in 2020-21, when he notched 16 goals and five assists in all competitions. That included six strikes on Arsenal’s route to the Europa League semi-final.

Pepe’s notable upturn in form sparked hopes of an exciting campaign this time around. However, that has not been the case.

The Ivorian has had to spend plenty of time on the bench while the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli impress.

Pepe did get a chance in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win over Sunderland. He certainly took it, bagging a goal and two assists as Arsenal ran out 5-1 winners at home.

But a January exit is still on the cards as manager Mikel Arteta plans an attacking overhaul. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could also leave, although that is more likely to take place in the summer.

On Pepe, Merson said (via Daily Mail): “I think if they could sell him in January, they’d probably sell him.

Aubameyang has been linked with Barcelona

Aubameyang has been linked with Barcelona

Arsenal's Aubameyang has been linked with a loan move to Barcelona.

“In my opinion, I think he would go and move on if he could. He just hasn’t been consistent enough. The ones in front of him have been consistent.

“He can be an 8/10 or a 4/10. As a manager you just want someone who’ll be a steady seven, seven and a half.”

Merson then suggested the fee Arsenal could get for the 26-year-old. “Years ago, when you got bought for a lorry load of money, the pressure was on. In this day and age, you can flop and no one says a word,” he added.

“Managers would lose their jobs on a big signing, that doesn’t happen anymore.

“They’ll probably sell him for 20-30m and lose 30-40m on him, and no one will say a dickie bird.

“It’s all about attitude. You’re playing at Arsenal, that pitch is mustard.”

Micah Richards verdict on Arsenal target

Meanwhile, pundit Micah Richards has been speaking about rumoured Arsenal target Dusan Vlahovic.

The Fiorentina striker is seen as a potential replacement for Aubameyang up front. He is close to leaving Italy after refusing to sign a new contract for La Viola.

Richards said: “I have watched him a couple of times now. He is lightning. It’s ridiculous.

“He has got 16 [goals] in 18 [games] this season. His left foot is like a wand. I am telling you now, he is everything, he is everything you need.”

Vlahovic is also a target for Man Utd, Tottenham and Juventus.

READ MORE: Arsenal star emerges in rival’s crosshairs with Arteta mulling January sale