Former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has hit out at his former employers, claiming that he was forced into signing the struggling Nicolas Pepe, having already held talks with Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha.
Plenty was expected of Pepe upon his arrival from French side Lille, but he has failed to adapt to life in the Premier League this season, and he has certainly not lived up to his huge £72m price tag thus far.
And former Gunners boss Emery, who signed Pepe, has taken a swipe at the hierarchy over the transfer dealings, claiming that Zaha ‘wanted to come’ to the Emirates Stadium, but ‘the club decided Pepe was one for the future,’ as reported by The Guardian.
“He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience. I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt.
“Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’
“I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games’. He beat us on his own.
“It’s also true he was expensive and Palace didn’t want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.”
Zaha has been instrumental for Crystal Palace once again this year, and the Ivorian remains the catalyst behind all of the Eagles’ attacking play. The 27-year-old has been on the radar of a number of Europe’s elite clubs for some time, but Palace have made it clear that any admirer will have to part with huge sums of money to sign their talisman.
Arsenal were one of the teams interested in Zaha, but they ultimately opted to take a pricey gamble on Pepe. Emery tried to get the best out of the 24-year-old during his time in north London, but a poor opening few months of the 2019/20 season saw the Spaniard sacked in November.