Report: Arsenal Ready to Ramp Up Interest in Lille Winger Nicolas Pepe

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist INovember 10, 2018

Lille's Ivorian forward Nicolas Pepe reacts during the French L1 football match between Nîmes and Guingamp, on september 26, 2018 at the Costieres stadium in Nimes, southern France. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)        (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Arsenal are ready to ramp up their interest in Lille winger Nicolas Pepe after Danny Welbeck suffered a serious ankle injury against Sporting CP in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

The Gunners expect Welbeck to miss the next six months, leaving them short of attacking options for the rest of the season, per The Sun's Mark Irwin.

The club's head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, is said to be closely monitoring Pepe, and he could cost the Gunners £45 million.

Arsenal are enjoying life in manager Unai Emery's first season in charge after replacing Arsene Wenger.

The club have gone 15 games unbeaten in all competitions, have qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League and are challenging for a place in the Premier League's top four.

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are the club's first-choice strikers, but behind the duo, the club do lack options.

Arsenal have not yet confirmed how long Welbeck will be out for but have acknowledged he suffered a serious injury:

PhysioRoom.com @physioroom

Arsenal say Welbeck suffered a "significant" right ankle injury in the 0-0 draw with Sporting. "Danny remains in hospital and will continue to be assessed. A further update will be issued over the next 72 hours." #AFC

Welbeck's injury could mean 19-year-old Eddie Nketiah may see some game time, but the youngster has not made a first-team appearance this season.

Pepe has been attracting admirers with his performances for Lille. The 23-year-old has eight goals and five assists in just 13 Ligue 1 outings.

Scouted Football noted how effective he's been:

Scouted Football @ScoutedFtbl

10+ direct goal involvements in Europe's top five leagues this season: 13 • Kylian Mbappé (19) 12 • Lionel Messi 12 • Neymar 12 • Nicolas Pépé (23) 11 • Sébastien Haller 11 • Cristiano Ronaldo 11 • Luis Suárez 10 • Eden Hazard 10 • Jadon Sancho (18) 10 • Suso Elite. https://t.co/yBtRv8BTbW

Premier League champions Manchester City have asked about his availability, according to Duncan Castles at the Sunday Times. Bayern Munich and Manchester United have also been linked, per Bild (h/t Jack Rathborn of the Daily Mirror).

Pepe told Telefoot (h/t James Whaling of the Daily Mirror), he was unaware of speculation over his future. 

"A preference between Dortmund, Bayern or Arsenal? They're all big clubs," he said. "I was not aware of these rumours, although it's nice. Will I leave Lille at the end of the season? We do not even know what I'll be doing tomorrow!"

Lille president Gerard Lopez has said the club will not sell Pepe in January, per Sport's Albert Aubach:

"Even for 100 million euros, Pepe won't go. We could have sold him in the summer and we did not. He won't go in the winter. I want him to stay, we want him to stay, he wants to stay and he will play the whole season.

"After that, we're not a club that can keep hold of players when they have the chance to move to big European sides. It is more than likely that he leaves in the summer, but he wants to stay for now."

Lopez's comments suggest Arsenal will find it difficult to tempt Pepe away in the winter. However, a replacement for Welbeck looks to be needed as Arsenal challenge for honours at home and in Europe.