Just days after announcing a double deal for Dani Ceballos and William Saliba, Arsenal have now completed the club-record signing of Lille OSC superstar Nicolas Pépé.
The Ivory Coast international’s move has seen Arsenal pay a new club-record £72m fee – eclipsing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s £56m price tag – albeit in instalments to help fit with the team’s current budget.
Despite being in last year’s Ligue 1 Team of the Season and almost single-handedly helping Lille to qualify for the Champions League, seldom is known about Pépé outside of France.
Here are a few bits Arsenal fans will want to know about Pépé to start getting excited about before the start of the 2019/20 season.
Despite spending the entire season out on Lille’s right-wing, Pépé actually ended up finish as Ligue 1’s second top goalscorer behind only Kylian Mbappé.
Including assists, Pépé was directly involved in more league goals than four of last season’s top-flight teams – Guingamp, Caen, Dijon (all relegated) and Amiens.
Pépé might be making his name right now with four-time league champions Lille, but the Ivory Coast international actually broke into Ligue 1 with minnows Angers.
The club have historically bounced between France’s top two divisions, but Pépé – along with striker Karl Toko Ekambi – helped to establish Angers as a regular Ligue 1 side who haven’t been relegated since their promotion in 2015.
The 24-year-old’s move up to join Lille was a huge step in his career and can certainly put most doubts about Pépé’s ability to adapt to life at Arsenal to rest.
When Arsenal’s initial move for Pépé appeared to be off earlier this summer, Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha emerged as the club’s number one target for the summer transfer window.
The Gunners have now made a U-turn over that decision, and instead, the club are on the brink of signing a natural right-winger who has a better goalscoring record at international level.
Pépé currently finds the back of the net every 194 minutes while representing the Les Éléphants, while Zaha only scores once in every 282.
Current Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa only ever spent four months in charge of Lille OSC before his departure from the Stade Pierre Mauroy, but it was El Loco’s genius that saw Pépé join the club.
The Argentine started by watching every Ligue 1 match that Pépé had played with Angers before watching the Ivorian in person, eventually landing his signature for €10m.
For more on Bielsa, read 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series here.
Scoring a league goal once every three matches at least throughout his career, Pépé’s record in front of goal at club level is incredibly similar to that at an international level, so Arsenal fans will be confident that he’ll bring a steady flow of goals next season.
As a left-footed winger coming in from the right side, Pépé will be completely unique in Arsenal’s attack and will cause defences all sorts of problems alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – two former Ligue 1 stars who are now among the most feared partnerships in football history.
Arsenal’s history with French-speaking players during Arsène Wenger’s era at the club is more than well documented, but they’ve only ever signed three Ivory Coast internationals throughout the Premier League era.
Centre-back Kolo Touré joined the club in 2002 and went on make 329 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions, winning a league title and two FA Cups before his £16m move to Manchester City seven years later.
Fan favourite full-back Emmanuel Eboué spent six years in north London before his move to Turkey in 2011, being replaced during the same transfer window as Gervinho in a high-profile move from Lille OSC.