Arsenal are reportedly set to concede defeat in their pursuit of Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe due to the Ivorian’s price tag and their own budget constraints.
According to a report from France Football (h/t GFFN), Premier League giants Arsenal have held talks with Ligue 1 outfit Lille over the possibility of signing in-form attacker Nicolas Pepe in the summer, but are set to be priced out of a move for the 23-year-old.
Pepe has been one of the most prolific forwards in the French top-flight this season. The Ivory Coast international, who joined Lille from Angers in the summer of 2017, has netted 20 goals and set up 11 more in 35 league outings and is the second-highest goalscorer in Ligue 1, behind PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe (30 goals).
Primarily a right-sided winger, the 23-year-old has been used in a centre-forward role this season, where he has thrived. Naturally, his goal-scoring ability coupled with the versatility has seen him garner a lot of interest from a number of clubs across Europe.
Arsenal have emerged as one of Pepe’s strongest suitors in recent months, with manager Unai Emery keen on adding the Lille forward to his ranks ahead of the next season. The Gunners have an important summer ahead of them, after missing out on a top-four finish this term and the attacking department is something that Emery needs to strengthen.
While Arsenal have two of the most dangerous marksmen in Europe in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the supporting squad lacks the requisite quality to help them push for glory on multiple fronts. The lack of an out-and-out winger is something that the club want to address, having had to use the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil in the wide areas to little impact.
And Pepe would be the ideal option for the North London giants. The 23-year-old has the pace and the ability to beat his man, while he has shown he can score and assist in equal measure. And the fact that he can double up as a striker will be a boon for Arsenal, who will be short on numbers in the said department with Danny Welbeck set to leave at the end of the season.
However, as per the report, Arsenal will be operating on a very tight transfer budget of around just £40 million in the summer window, which would restrict them from splashing the cash on Pepe, as Lille are likely to hold out for a transfer fee in the range of £50 million.
The report further adds that with Arsenal set to be priced out of a move for the 23-year-old Pepe, they are likely to turn their attention towards Ajax starlet David Neres and Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser, both of whom have had splendid 2018-19 campaigns and would be available at a much more affordable price.
It is imperative that Arsenal bring in a new winger in the summer if they are to challenge for trophies, but with Nicolas Pepe likely to be out of their price range, it remains to be seen who they end up signing.