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‘Pepe’s £72m price tag will be frustrating Arteta’ – Arsenal need funds of Europe, admits Smith

17:04 BST 18/07/2020
Nicolas Pepe Mikel Arteta Arsenal 2019-20 GFX
The former Gunners striker admits recruitment has been poor in north London, with the club’s current boss needing to be backed in the next market

Nicolas Pepe’s £72 million ($90m) price tag and his lack of return on that investment will be “frustrating” Mikel Arteta, says Alan Smith, with the current Arsenal boss now looking for similar backing in the transfer market.

His predecessor, Unai Emery, was allowed to complete a club-record deal in the summer of 2019, while also bringing in the likes of David Luiz and Kieran Tierney.

Speculating to accumulate has not paid off for the Gunners, with another season set to be spent outside of the Premier League’s top four.

Arsenal are sweating on European qualification of any kind for 2020-21, with continental competition crucial to their future plans.

Smith admits as much, with Arteta needing his current squad to deliver for him before then turning to his board and requesting more funds that will allow ever-widening gaps to those at the top of the English game to be bridged.

The former Arsenal striker told the Evening Standard ahead of a crucial FA Cup semi-final clash with Manchester City: “Winning the FA Cup looks like their best chance of using passports next season.

“And that’s fairly crucial for the club’s finances. Missing out on Champions League money had already hit hard. Denied Europa League cash would box the Gunners into an even tighter corner. 

“Mikel Arteta knows that only too well. That’s why he’s been vocal about the club’s spending policy over recent days.

“How frustrating for him to see vast amounts spent on someone like Nicolas Pepe without anything like a decent return on the pitch. He must privately wonder what’s going on in the recruitment department.

“And that side of things has got to get sorted before Arteta can really start to make progress.

“Closing the chasm in quality between Arsenal and the top sides is hard enough as it is without getting hamstrung by bad decisions from others.”

Arteta has claimed to have no concerns when it comes to those calling the shots behind the scenes at Arsenal, but plenty of criticism has been aimed in that direction.

Former club captain Tony Adams is among those to have suggested that technical staff such as Edu and Raul Sanllehi are out of their depth, with recruitment having been an issue at Emirates Stadium for some time now.