Arsenal proven wrong over Wilfried Zaha transfer choice as Nicolas Pepe edges towards exit

Mikel Arteta looks ahead to Tottenham battle

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The impending exit of Nicolas Pepe has proven Arsenal wrong over their decision to shun a move for Wilfried Zaha. The Gunners made Pepe their record signing back in 2019, paying a hefty £72million to bring him in from Lille.

Zaha was one of the players who was thought to be an alternative target in that window for Arsenal, but he ended up staying at Crystal Palace. In the three seasons since, Pepe has struggled badly, while Zaha has continued to thrive at Selhurst Park.

In that timespan, Pepe has scored 16 Premier League goals, while Zaha has registered an astonishing 28. The contrast in their performances would add weight to the idea that former Palace boss Ian Holloway was correct when he questioned the Gunners for signing Pepe over Zaha.

“I am very surprised that Arsenal rate Nicolas Pepe better than Wilfried Zaha. I certainly don’t. I would be very sad if I don’t ever see Wilfried Zaha playing in the Champions League. I feel he is good enough for anyone in the world, including the teams that get there,” Holloway told GOAL in 2019.

“At the moment Everton can’t get to the Champions League. There is no wrong way to go about getting a move these days. I thought he had his best season ever last year. He is starting to add the end product to his performances.

“I believe at the very, very top level, if he plays with a team that can keep the ball away from you, who also win it back very quickly and dominate a game [he’ll do well]. If you give him the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box then he can win games, even for Manchester City. He is good enough for any team in the Premier League now.”

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Arsenal opted to ignore Holloway’s analysis though and pressed on with signing Pepe, a decision that now looks to have been the wrong one. So much so that Pepe is now moving towards leaving the Emirates Stadium in the summer transfer window.

The Gunners will likely have to take a significant hit on the fee they paid for the winger three years ago though, given his underwhelming performances. Zaha meanwhile has become a key part of Patrick Vieira’s side as they have secured an impressive top-half finish.

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