Arsenal ‘keeping an eye on’ long-term target with Pepe set to complete transfer on Thursday

Date published: Thursday 25th August 2022 10:40 - Jason Soutar

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha compete for the ball

Arsenal are reportedly still interested in signing Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha with Nicolas Pepe’s exit close to being finalised.

The Gunners have been linked with the former Manchester United man for a few years and at one point it looked like they were going to sign him instead of Pepe.

Zaha is a player who has been frequently mentioned in every transfer window in recent seasons, with Tottenham also believed to be interested.

The possibility of the 29-year-old joining Spurs is extremely slim given their recent acquisition of Richarlison.

Arsenal, however, are still in the market for another wide player and given their long-standing interest in Zaha, it is not too much of a surprise to see his name thrown in the rumour mill once again.

The Gunners’ pursuit of a new winger hinged on the future of Pepe, who has become a benchwarmer at the Emirates despite costing the Londoners a club-record £72million when he signed from Lille in 2019.

The Ivorian has performed in fits and starts and was pivotal in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph in his maiden season at the club, but has fallen out of favour under Mikel Arteta.

Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli’s form has made it very difficult for Pepe to break into the starting XI, or make an impact as a substitute.

With a season-long loan move to French club Nice reportedly close, Arsenal now have the freedom to sign a new winger.

They have been linked with Villarreal’s Yeremy Pino, and more recently, Pedro Neto of Wolves.

However, journalist Dean Jones has claimed that Zaha is “in the background” with Arsenal keeping an “eye on” the experienced winger.

“They’re not the only two names they’re looking at (Neto and Pino). In the background there is Wilfried Zaha,” Jones told The Football Terrace on YouTube.

“That deal is not moving forward at the moment, but Zaha is definitely one of those players that ticks the boxes and that Arsenal have an eye on.

“We will have to wait and see if they go down that path, Zaha is obviously in red-hot form at the moment.”

While Arsenal are hoping to conclude one or two more deals before the transfer window closes, they are still working on a few outgoing sales.

As mentioned prior, Pepe’s move to Nice is edging closer and Fabrizio Romano revealed on Wednesday that the player has reduced his salary in order to move back to France.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another player to fall down the pecking order under Arteta and is attracting interest from several Premier League clubs.

Southampton are believed to be leading the race to sign the versatile midfielder.

Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin is expected to leave before the transfer window slams shut next week.

The Evening Standard reported on Thursday that Bellerin ‘prefers’ a return to Real Betis after his productive loan spell last term.

Maitland-Niles has been ‘offered’ around the league, with the Saints and Bournemouth expressing the most substantial interest.

Pepe is expected to complete his medical on Thursday and could even feature for Nice against Marseille this weekend.

If he does play, he will likely come up against fellow Arsenal loanee Nuno Tavares, who will spend 2022/23 with Marseille.

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