Au revoir, Nicolas. I mean you no ill will when I refer to you variously in this post as deadwood, a flop, an albatross. It wasn’t you who wrung that £72m fee out of the club. That was Raul Sanllehi, signing you over Unai Emery’s objections and stated preference for the Prem-proven Wilfried Zaha. You never really fit into Emery’s ambiguous tactics and seemed to fit in even less once Arteta took the wheel. You’re off to Trabzonspor, and I wish you nothing but the best, especially against Galatasaray.Read more: Arsenal finally jettison the last of the pre-Arteta players (kind of)…
Arsenal.com confirm that we have terminated his contract. Rumours suggest that Trabzonspor may have paid us a nominal fee of £3-4m, but reliable details regarding the fee and wages will be hard to come by. It’s possible that we’re free and clear of his £140k weekly wages; it’s possible that we’ve come to some kind of agreement that has us paying part of his wages, similar to a loan deal. In any case, it’ll be good to have him off the books. Those who would bemoan our failure to somehow hoodwink some club into buying him should pause to consider that Edu beat the bushes and combed the desert to find such naive enough to do that. We can finally wash our hands of the Sanllehi-Emery era.
Of the 12 players the club purchased when Sanllehi and Emery were here, ten are gone: Pépé joins Torreira, Tierney, Leno, Guendouzi, Sokratis, Luiz, Suarez, Lichtsteiner, and Ceballos. The only two to have proven good enough to survive the excorcism are Saliba and Martinelli. I’d argue that Tierney and Leno enjoyed spells as quality players, and Torreira, Ceballos, and Guendouzi had their moments. The others were, well…dross, if not complete and utter.
Back to Pépé, he may just go down in the annals of players who struggled to justify a transfer fee. In Pépé’s case, he couldn’t prove himself in Arteta’s possession-based tactics that ask wingers to track back. He’d probably have done better in a more counter-attacking side and some of his brightest flashes came on the occasional counters under Emery. That transfer fee may have created a catch-22: he probably felt immense pressure to score and, without realising it, lingered near midfield instead of dropping down to defend when opponents were in the final third. Hoping to get in behind the higher defensive line to score, Pépé paradoxically played himself out of position.
When Willian is prefered over you, you have to know something is deeply wrong.
The rise of Saka doomed Pépé, and there’s no shame in that. Saka after all is quickly becoming one of the best of the Prem at his position. He does everything Pépé does but better, and does so while contributing to the overall team philosophy.
I feel bad for pointing out that, of the three players we loaned to French clubs last season, two of them flourished and one of them didn’t. Lacazette? 31 goals in 39 appearances for Lyon. Balogun? 22 goals in in 39 appeances. Pépé? Just eight goals in 28 appearances. Maybe he’s short on confidence after three frustrating seasons, each one worse than the one before. I do hope he finds more-fertile grounds in the Turkish Süper Lig. To the best of my recollection, he never fussed or complained. Jadon Sancho, if you’re reading this, yes, I do have you in mind.
While it surely would have been more-cathartic to have sold Pépé for a fee that was at least in the double digits, we’re at least free of this last albatross. We’re getting closer to having a squad two-deep at every position. We’re getting closer to competing with if not displacing Man City from the top of the table.