Unai Emery has revealed he was desperate to sign Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha and even spoke to the attacker before Arsenal signed Nicholas Pepe last summer.
The axed Arsenal boss has made it clear that the club went against his wishes in the transfer market and signed £72million Pepe, instead of pursuing Emery’s preferred target Zaha.
Pepe became Arsenal’s record signing when he arrived form Lille last August, but he struggled to get to grips with life in the Premier League, just as Emery had predicted.
The 24-year-old has improved under new boss Mikel Arteta and scored three times in the Premier League since Arteta’s arrival in December, but Emery, who was shown the door at the end of November, has said he insisted the club go for Zaha, despite Palace not being keen to sell.
“We signed Pepe. He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience,” Emery told The Guardian.
“I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt. Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances.
“I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’ I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.’
“He beat us on his own.
“It’s also true he was expensive and Palace didn’t want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.”
The Spanish boss also revealed Aaron Ramsey wanted to stay at the club, but the club did not want to agree to the financial terms of the midfielder, who signed on a free for Juventus.
“[Initially] he wanted to stay,” Emery said. “He needed to negotiate a new contract and they didn’t reach an agreement.
“The club had doubts about renewing for a certain sum. Ramsey wanted to feel valued. It was a financial matter; I can’t get involved. And I still didn’t know him well when I arrived. He’s important but I can’t say what they should pay him.”