Former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has revealed that his target was Ivory Coast international Wilfred Zaha and not Nicolas Pepe.
Emery told The Guardian he met with Zaha and preferred signing the Crystal Palace star who had already proved himself in the English Premier League.
In the end, the Arsenal board favoured a move for the younger Pepe and the Gunners smashed their club transfer record in August to sign the 24-year-old from Lille for a reported fee of £72 million.
Pepe has enjoyed a mixed debut season at the Emirates and while he has the potential to be a world beater, Emery was of the opinion that the winger’s Ivorian teammate would’ve been a better fit.
“We signed Pepe,” Emery said. “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,” Emery concluded.
Pepe has scored six goals and assisted eight more in 32 appearances for the club this season, while Zaha has managed three goals and five assists for Palace in 30 games across all competitions in the current campaign.
Emery was sacked as Arsenal boss in November last year following a poor run of results with former Gunners midfielder Mikel Arteta brought in as his replacement.
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By Mthokozisi Dube