Arsenal invested a club-record £72 million ($88m) in Nicolas Pepe during the summer transfer window of 2019, with the Gunners having to spend big on the Ivory Coast international in order to lure him away from Lille and fend off rival interest from across Europe.
Those at Emirates Stadium were of the opinion that they were acquiring one of the most exciting talents in world football, with there plenty of potential for them to unlock in a tricky and powerful winger that appeared perfectly suited to life in the Premier League.
Fast forward three seasons and little return has been seen on a history-making investment, with Pepe toiling to the point that a move elsewhere – for a much lower transfer fee – is now being rumoured with there still two years left to run on the contract he signed when arriving in England.
Is it time for Arsenal to sell Nicolas Pepe?
That question was put by GOAL to former Gunners striker Alan Smith, with a man that knows all about providing an attacking spark in north London saying when speaking in association with Bookies Bonuses: “I don’t think he’s Arteta’s cup of tea – doesn’t work hard enough and you never know what you are going to get out of him.
“Talented, yes, he could put one in the top corner from 30 yards, but you never know what he’s going to produce.
“How much money they could get for him is another matter. They certainly aren’t going to get £70-odd million back, what a transfer that was!
“If they can, they need to move on from it. Arteta has been quite ruthless in moving on from players – you think of [Mesut] Ozil and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang – he doesn’t hesitate.
“Sometimes it will cost the club money to ship them out, but I’m sure he will be trying to do that with Pepe. It’s been a disaster of a signing.”
What does Nicolas Pepe’s record at Arsenal look like?Getty
Pepe registered 23 goals and 11 assists across his final season at Lille, with it that productivity that convinced Arsenal that he was worth rolling the dice on.
Across three years at the Emirates, with 112 appearances taken in, the 34-cap Ivory Coast international has found the target just 27 times while teeing up a further 21 efforts for those around him.
It is fair to say that much more was not only expected but demanded, with his price tag ensuring that his every move was always going to be dissected in minute detail.
He has slowly slipped down Arsenal’s attacking pecking order as others – such as Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli – have risen to the fore, with his Premier League start numbers dipping from 22 in 2019-20, through 16 the following year to just five in the 2021-22 campaign.
To put it bluntly, the Gunners have decided that Pepe can no longer be trusted and are not prepared to keep putting faith in him when inconsistency shows no sign of being shaken.
He has been given chances to prove his worth, but they have not been taken and – with time still on his side at 27 years of age – a window appears to have presented itself in which a parting of ways would suit all concerned.
What is Arsenal’s stance on Nicolas Pepe’s future?
By Charles Watts – Arsenal correspondent for GOAL
It’s never really fair to judge a player by his price tag, but it’s impossible not to really do that when it comes to Pepe.
Had he been a £25 million addition from Lille, no-one could really complain with the sort of numbers he has produced since he’s been at Arsenal.
He’s had some good moments, including playing a major role in the 2020 FA Cup win, and last season scored 16 times in all competitions.
But for £72m you expect consistency from a player. You expect to be signing someone who is going to make an impact every time that he plays.
That just hasn’t been the case with Pepe. He’s far too inconsistent and one-dimensional to be a success in the Premier League.
There’s no doubt that he has quality, but it feels like he has to move away now to kickstart a career that has stalled badly since his move to London.
Arsenal are open to the winger leaving and he has switched agents in a bid to get himself a move. Finding a club to take on his wages, however, might well prove difficult.