Unai Emery reveals why he wanted Zaha over £72m Pepe at Arsenal

Unai Emery reveals he wanted Wilfried Zaha over £72m Nicolas Pepe at Arsenal because the Crystal Palace winger would adapt ‘easier and faster’ than the Frenchman due to his Premier League experience

  • Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe for £72m under Unai Emery back in 2019
  • Attacker Pepe has struggled to consistently hit top form since joining the club
  • Emery has revealed Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha was his first choice 

Unai Emery has lifted the lid on why he favoured a move for Wilfried Zaha instead of Nicolas Pepe in his ill-fated spell as Arsenal manager.

Zaha recently revealed just how close he was to joining the Gunners when Emery was boss, only for them to turn to Nicolas Pepe in a £72m transfer from Lille in 2019.

Pepe has struggled to maintain a consistent level since arriving in the Premier League while Zaha is still at Crystal Palace, playing a key role.

Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe for an astonishing £72m from Lille when Unai Emery was manager

But Pepe was not Emery’s first choice – the then Arsenal boss wanted to sign Wilfried Zaha

And it is Zaha’s proven Premier League record that meant if it was solely up to Emery, he would have signed the Eagles talisman.

‘I usually want to sign first the players I know there,’ Emery told Football London. ‘When we played against Crystal Palace, Zaha showed he was a very good player.

‘I also think Nicolas Pepe is a very good player. When you make the decision you have to decide how easy the adaption will be of some players.

‘I was thinking the adaption was easier for Zaha because he was playing in the Premier League and you didn’t know exactly how fast Nicolas Pepe can adapt to the Premier League because I know you can need some time to adapt.

‘I was thinking at this time that the adaption of Zaha was probably easier and faster than Pepe.’

Zaha is still at Crystal Palace, playing a central role in the team under Roy Hodgson’s guidance

Emery’s successor, Mikel Arteta, has underlined his desire to get the best out of Pepe in the coming weeks and months.

‘We need to help him to (succeed),’ Arteta said after Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Newcastle in the FA Cup. ‘In order to do that he needs minutes, he needs consistency in the team and when he has that, he needs to show he is capable of doing it. Let’s see how the next few months develop.’

Pepe has made 23 appearances this season, scoring five goals. 




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