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Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery has revealed that he favoured a move for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha over Nicolas Pepe in the summer of 2019 because the former Manchester United man would have adapted to his new surroundings easier.
After finishing fifth in the Premier League in his first season in charge at the Emirates Stadium, Emery was keen to add a sense of trickery and a fresh turn of pace to his squad ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, highlighting a winger as a key target.
Throughout that summer, the Gunners, who will be looking to post a fifth successive win in all competitions when they face Palace tomorrow evening, were heavily linked with moves for Zaha and Pepe.
In the end, despite Emery’s admiration for Zaha, the Gunners made the decision to land Pepe from French outfit Lille, signing the Ivory Coast international for a club-record fee of £72million.
Despite the huge transfer fee, Pepe’s first season in English football failed to live up to expectation, as the right-winger scored just eight times in 42 appearances.
This season, Pepe, who has been heavily criticised by a number of Arsenal supporters at times, has once again failed to win over his doubters, netting just two Premier League goals in 11 outings.
Though there is hope within the Arsenal camp that Pepe will start to produce the goods expected of him, he is showing no signs of doing just that at the moment.
Now, just over a year on from his sacking at the Emirates Stadium, Emery has opened up on the tale that dominated Arsenal’s 2019 summer transfer window, revealing that he showed a great amount of interest in Zaha, as well as detailing why he was keen to add him to the squad.
“I usually want to sign first the players I know there,” Emery told football.london. “When we played against Crystal Palace, Zaha showed he was a very good player.
“I also think Nicolas Pepe is a very good player. When you make the decision you have to decide how easy the adaption will be of some players.