Unai Emery has told Arsenal that Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe is the player he wants the club to sign in January as he seeks attacking reinforcements.
The Gunners have confirmed they will dip their toes into transfer market in January after Danny Welbeck was sidelined for the rest of the season with the broken ankle injury he sustained in the Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon.
And having scoured the market for potential new recruits, Emery has informed Arsenal that he wants the club to launch a bid for in-demand Pepe.
The Ivory Coast winger has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for around £45million – and while that is more than the Gunners are hoping to spend – Emery will try and convince the board that it’s money well spent with the player having already scored eight goals and laid on five assists in 13 Ligue 1 games this season.
The Gunners always looked well off for attacking options this season with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vying for places in attack. But Welbeck’s lay-off – coupled with Arsenal’s favoured front two both picking up knocks and withdrawing from international duty – suddenly leaves Emery short on options, hence the interest in Pepe.
Lille will undoubtedly fight tooth and nail to keep a player who has emerged as one of Ligue 1’s most exciting stars this season, with Lille boss Christophe Galtier recently comparing the player with Aubameyang.
“Yes. I have already met a player like that during my career, some even, including Auba,” he said.
“Some clubs have contacted us directly after the transfer window to know what the state of play is,” he said. “Nicolas has become an intransferable player. I know that the president wants to keep him all season, and Nicolas also wants to stay for the full season.”
However, it seems Arsenal are unlikely to be unperturbed by Lille’s stance, with Arsenal head of football Raul Sanllehi dropping a strong hint they were to make a January window splash.
“That is absolutely something unplanned,” he said of Welbeck’s injury.
“Yes, that makes you consider things. I am not saying that’s a green light to go to the market but we have good players in the house also that may get further opportunities like Eddie Nketiah for example.
“We need to see. We are in November so it’s a good time to start analysing what options we have in the market. We are not closing the door but it’s still not the preferred one.
“The plans were made in the summer. We are happy with how things are going. We are always going to strive to be the best team we can be.
“If there is a very good opportunity, we are definitely going to consider (it), we will see. Danny Welbeck’s injury alters, in a way, the views.”
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