Belfast Telegraph

Top-class Pepe will bring goals to Gunners: Emery


Game changer: Nicolas Pepe scored 22 league goals for Lille last term
Game changer: Nicolas Pepe scored 22 league goals for Lille last term
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery

By Steve Simpson

Arsenal have completed the signing of Nicolas Pepe from Lille for a club-record fee.

The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international has joined the Gunners for an undisclosed fee believed to be worth £72m, which is expected to be paid in instalments.

Pepe's move eclipses the £55m spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018 as Arsenal add another attacking option to their ranks.

Arsenal confirmed the paperwork for the move had been finalised on Thursday, and Pepe would wear the number 19 shirt at the Emirates Stadium.

The length of the deal was not announced, but is believed to be for five years.

Gunners head coach Unai Emery said: "Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe.

"Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I'm delighted he's joining.

"He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team."

Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last season and was linked with a host of clubs over the summer, including Man Utd and Napoli.

Arsenal emerged late last week as the front-runners and have now sealed the former Angers player's services.

"Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me," said Pepe.

"I have come a long way and struggled a lot, and so signing for this great club is a big reward."

Asked how he would describe his playing style, Pepe said: "Fast. Quick to connect with the ball and a good finisher as well."

Pepe starred for Angers before he moved to the top flight with Lille in 2017 - scoring 35 league goals in his two seasons with last year's runners-up in the Ligue 1 title race.

Pepe hopes to follow Alexandre Lacazette, who moved to the Emirates Stadium from Lyon in 2017, in making a major impact with the north London club.

"When I knew I was coming to Arsenal, I immediately thought of the French guys who play here," Pepe said.

"I thought of (Mesut) Ozil, the world champions, Lacazette, Aubameyang and many more.

"Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him. It will be an honour to play alongside him."

The signing of Pepe follows this summer's arrivals of forward Gabriel Martinelli, the season-long loan of Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos and the transfer of defender William Saliba - who will spend the 2019/20 campaign back on loan at St Etienne.

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