Unai Emery did not want Arsenal to sign Nicolas Pepe and held talks with Wilfried Zaha instead

Arsenal star Nicolas Pepe and axed manager Unai Emery
The Spanish coach wanted a player with more Premier League experience (Picture: Getty)

Axed Arsenal manager Unai Emery has revealed he was against the signing of Nicolas Pepe and wanted the Gunners to sign Wilfried Zaha instead, even speaking to the Crystal Palace star.

Pepe became Arsenal’s record signing when he completed a £72million move to the Emirates last summer, however he struggled to live up to that price tag in the early stages of the season.

The Ivory Coast international netted just one goal – from the penalty spot – in his first 12 Premier League appearances, with the last of those coming in Emery’s final game against Southampton.

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha
Emery had been blown away by Zaha in matches against Palace (Picture: Getty)

Pepe’s form has improved somewhat under successor Mikel Arteta, netting three times in the league since the change of manager, though Emery says he was always worried the 24-year-old winger would take time to adapt.

‘We signed Pepe. He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience,’ Emery told The Guardian.

‘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.’

Emery added: ‘It’s also true he was expensive and Palace didn’t want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.’

Pepe actually has one more goal and one more assist than Zaha in the Premier League this season, while he has netted twice in Arsenal’s march to the last 16 of the Europa League.

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