Mikel Arteta will need to rethink his summer transfer plans after Nice decided not to take up the option of signing Nicolas Pepe on a permanent deal.
Pepe, 28, arrived at the Emirates to much fanfare in the summer of 2019. The Gunners paid Lille a club-record fee of £72m for the Ivory Coast interantional. However, he rarely hit the expected heights during 112 appearances in all competitions.
The former Angers star bagged 27 goals during three seasons in north London but was deemed surplus to requirements last summer.
The African inked a season-long loan deal with Nice, who had the option to buy at the end of the campaign.
Pepe enjoyed 17 starts among 19 Ligue 1 outings, scoring six goals for Les Aiglons.
He also played eight times in the Europa Conference League, scoring twice. However, it was not enough to earn him a permanent spot at Allianz Riviera.
Arsenal were hoping that the French club would take up the option of buying him outright.
But that has not happened and the man from Mantes-la-Jolie will be back in the capital.
However, it is highly unlikely that he will kick another ball for Arsenal having been jettisoned from Arteta’s squad towards the end of 2021-2022.
He has one year left on his current Gunners deal and so is likely to be sold this summer.
It seems unlikely that Arsenal will get anything near the price they paid to acquire his services four years ago.
And they might need to take drastic action if they cannot find a buyer.
Pepe set for rapid Arsenal exit
His best season was 2020-21 when he bagged 16 goals from 47 appearances.
However, the following campaign saw him handed just five Premier League starts all season.
The writing was on the wall and he duly played no part in proceedings in 2022-23.
Arteta’s charges put up a superb challenge to the dominance of Manchester City in his absence.
However, they ran out of steam and had to settle for second place in the standings.
And with the nucleus of a talented side already at the club, there seems no way back for Pepe.
Leandro Trossard was recruited in January and fitted seamlessly into the Arsenal side.
And there is every reason to suspect that there will be further additions before the start of next season.
Arteta will need to balance his squad and move Pepe on. Arsenal can still ask for a fee as he is under contract until 2024.
However football.london are reporting that they might even terminate his contract to ensure he leaves the club.
That would be a huge kick in the teeth for a player who is still the club’s record signing and signals a rapid fall from grace.
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