Arsenal Transfer News: Nicolas Pepe Approach Revealed

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2018

PSG's Neymar, center, controls the ball ahead of LOSC Lille's Nicolas Pepe, left, during to the League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Guillem Balague has said Arsenal have already "approached" Lille about the possibility of signing winger Nicolas Pepe. 

Spanish football expert Balague spoke on his official YouTube channel (h/t Harry Howes of the Daily Star) about the Gunners' interest in Pepe:

"He's one of those players that have had a great start to the season. He's scored eight goals already, nine assists and he's got a great ability with his left foot.

"He's mostly left-footed, plays on the right-hand side but also on the left-hand side. It's mostly from wide areas coming inside that makes him special and it's what he does with the ball in small spaces that makes him special.

"That's why Arsenal are looking into the possibility of signing him. Yes, they've approached Lille."

Arsenal have reportedly already asked Lille about Pepe's availability.
Arsenal have reportedly already asked Lille about Pepe's availability.Michel Spingler/Associated Press

Balague expects Lille to demand a fee of €50 million (£43 million) for a player he is "sure" will move to the Premier League eventually.

Links between Arsenal and Ivory Coast international Pepe have been strong recently. The Gunners are expected to accelerate a move for Pepe following Danny Welbeck undergoing surgery to fix an ankle injury, per Mark Irwin of The Sun.

Welbeck's injury, sustained during the recent 0-0 draw with Sporting CP in the UEFA Europa League, has thinned head coach Unai Emery's attacking options. However, Welbeck is a striker, so Emery needs a centre-forward to replace him.

The Spaniard has already talked up the idea of giving 19-year-old academy graduate Eddie Nketiah more playing time. Nketiah, who scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Norwich City in last season's Carabao Cup, would vie to provide cover for Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through the middle.

Welbeck's ankle injury could hasten the Gunners making a move for Pepe.
Welbeck's ankle injury could hasten the Gunners making a move for Pepe.TF-Images/Getty Images

Where Pepe would help is out wide, an obvious need since Emery lacks true wingers. Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all more comfortable operating centrally as a No. 10.

Pepe's talent for switching from either foot, allied with his pace and close control, means he can stretch defences out wide and carry the ball past markers at will. Still only 23, Pepe is a budding young talent who would fit the Gunners' propensity for building through youth, a trait Emery has tried to maintain after replacing Arsene Wenger in the dugout this summer.

Wenger built a lot of his early success on unearthing youthful gems from Ligue 1. Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Emery can follow the same pattern thanks to his extensive knowledge of French football.

Emery knows about the young talents playing in Ligue 1.
Emery knows about the young talents playing in Ligue 1.Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

The 47-year-old used the latter quality to snap up midfield playmaker Matteo Guendouzi for just £7 million for Lorient this summer. Emery also got a first-hand glimpse of Pepe's talents from his two seasons with Les Parisiens.

Signing Pepe would add another dimension to Arsenal's forward line, but Emery has to be wary about not overlooking the options closer to home. Specifically, Reiss Nelson is a precocious winger who could help.

The 18-year-old is currently dominating the Bundesliga while on loan at Hoffenheim:

BT Sport Score @btsportscore

👍 319 minutes played in the Bundesliga 😳 Six goals scored Reiss Nelson, taking his chances 🔥🔥🔥 #BTSportScore https://t.co/5uLqTd10fm

Nelson even hinted he could return to Arsenal ahead of schedule during an interview with BBC Sport's David Ornstein.

Whenever Nelson returns, his form will surely warrant time in the starting XI. Emery may struggle to fit both Nelson and Pepe into a team already loaded with attacking talent.