Ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery claims he wanted to sign Zaha over Pepe

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery has recently spoken out about favouring a move for Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha over Nicolas Pepe.

Pepe’s Arsenal struggles

On paper, Arsenal’s 2019 summer transfer window seemed rather successful.

The likes of Dani Ceballos, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel Martinelli all looked like solid signings for a side no doubt eager to secure Champions League football for the first time in several years.

Their star signing, though, was most certainly Nicolas Pepe.

The Ivorian winger had lit up Ligue 1 in the previous season with Lille, netting 22 goals and providing 11 assists in 38 league ties.

As a result, Arsenal were probably fairly happy to pay a club-record £72m to acquire the services of the attacker .

However, since making the move to north London, Pepe has endured a rough period, which has seen him score just four and assist six in 24 league outings.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 28: Unai Emery manager of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League group F match between Arsenal FC and Eintracht Frankfurt at Emirates Stadium on November 28, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Emery wanted Zaha

And now, as mentioned above, the man in the Arsenal dugout when Arsenal signed Pepe, Unai Emery, has claimed that he actually wanted to sign a different wide-man instead of the 24-year-old.

The man in question was Pepe’s international teammate and Crystal Palace standout Wilfried Zaha.

Arsenal were heavily linked with Zaha last summer, but, in the end, the Gunners, of course, opted for Pepe.

And when speaking about Arsenal’s club-record signing recently, Emery stated that he needs time and patience.

What the Spanish tactician wanted last summer, though, was someone who already knew the Premier League.

Emery went on to praise Zaha for his ability to win games on his own, before claiming that he told Arsenal that the Palace star was the player whom he wanted to sign:

“We signed Pepe.

 “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 also went on to concede that Palace didn’t want to part with Zaha, who carried a hefty price-tag:

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

Quotes via Goal.

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.