Transfer Grade: Arsenal Sign Nicolas Pepe for £72 Million ($89M USD)

Written By Chops on July 31, 2019 - Last Updated on August 1, 2019

Who: Nicolas Pepe
From Where: Lille
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: £72 million ($89M USD)
Grade for Arsenal: B
Grade for Lille: A

Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal Overview

So much for that supposed £45M ($55M) transfer budget!

Arsenal wasn’t expected to do much this summer. Instead, they’ve done some really smart business and strengthened their squad.

Nicolas Pepe tore up Ligue 1 last year. On one hand, that’s like saying you’re the prettiest girl on the Isle of Man. On the other, no one denies how talented Pepe is.

Pepe won’t solve Arsenal’s defensive issues (we like 18 year-old center-back William Saliba, but it may take a year of growth and adjustment before he makes an impact and that’s after he spends another year with St. Etienne on loan). With new arrival Dani Ceballos, as well as existing menaces Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal may score so much now that their defense doesn’t matter.

Who is he?

Pepe, 24, was one of the most sought-after players of the transfer window. He was linked to many major clubs, including Liverpool in the Premier League.

Pepe is fast. He’s very skilled and has a nose for the goal. Pepe tallied 22 goals and 11 assists for Ligue 1 runner-up Lille last year.

The Ivory Coast international was by any metric (or in this case, WhoScored) one of Ligue 1’s top performers last year.

Is the price fair?

For a team that reportedly wasn’t going to spend much, Arsenal backed up the Brinks truck for Pepe.

As we did with the Moise Kean to Everton transfer, it’s worth looking at Joelinton to Newcastle for £40m and Luka Jovic to Real Madrid for €60M. And for that matter, Sebastien Haller to West Ham for £45 million.

Most would agree that Pepe is the better player of the four listed above. But is he £25 million+ better than Haller?

Arsenal paid a premium for Pepe. The good news for the Gunners is he’s just entering his prime and if he ends up a perennial Gold Boot threat, nobody in Emirates Stadium will be complaining.

What impact should we expect?

Arsenal have whiffs of 2017-18 Liverpool now.

That squad played heavy-metal football to its most extreme degrees. However, defensive woes (at least until Virgil van Dijk arrived) and goalkeeper issues kept Liverpool from reaching their full potential. Arsenal have that same vibe now, assuming no further transfers in occur.

Pepe is going to form a terrifying trio with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Yes, PEA and Lacazette are both getting long in the tooth and may start dropping off in quality–but both are still elite goal scorers. Combine their veteran savvy with Pepe, and wow.

As indicated by his assist tally, Pepe is wonderful at weaving through balls. He will open up nearly as many scoring opportunities as he’ll finish himself. Liverpool will rue not signing Pepe. He’s exactly the type of player they needed to compete for multiple trophies.

The Grades

Arsenal (B): Hats off to Arsenal. They’re going for it. Only get docked a letter grade because of the price. They paid a premium that will be hard to recoup. All of the pressure is on them to make a top 4 finish this year.

Added bonus for Arsenal is this will likely pressure Manchester United to overspend on Harry Maguire.

Lille (A): They got maximum value. Hate to see a club that made an unexpected and impressive run lose their key player, but they were paid handsomely.

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Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

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