Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe is reportedly facing a challenge to secure a permanent move to Nice. The Ivorian has struggled to justify his £72million transfer fee since joining the Gunners from Lille in 2019. Following the arrivals of attacking players Marquinhos and Fabio Vieira last summer, Mikel Arteta deemed Pepe surplus to requirements, prompting the record-signing to return to Ligue 1 in an attempt to rediscover his best form.
Pepe scored 22 goals in his final season with Lille but only managed 16 in his 80 Premier League appearances for Arsenal. This season, he has found the net eight times for Nice but has just returned to action following a spell on the sidelines with tendinitis in his knee. He appeared as a substitute in last week’s Europa Conference League win over Sheriff Tiraspol and then played the full ninety of Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Lorient.
According to L’Équipe, Pepe wants to stay with Nice beyond the end of his season-long loan from Arsenal. The club is open to the idea of keeping him at the Allianz Riviera stadium. However, club chiefs “want to see more from the player before making an attempt to retain him” for next season. Pepe only has one year remaining on his contract with Arsenal, and the Gunners are likely to want to try and offload him and recoup some sort of fee back rather than lose him for nothing 12 months later.
Whether Nice qualifies for European football again could also play a significant role in Pepe’s future. They currently sit seventh in the top-flight, six points behind Rennes, who occupy fifth place. Pepe reportedly needs to show more if he wants to secure a permanent move to Nice.
Pepe’s struggles at Arsenal have been well-documented, and his move back to Ligue 1 was seen as an opportunity for him to rediscover his form. While he has shown flashes of his potential, he has yet to consistently perform at the level expected of him. His performances will need to improve if he wants to secure a permanent move away from Arsenal.
The Gunners will be keen to recoup some of the money they spent on Pepe, but they may struggle to find a buyer willing to pay a significant fee for him. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on football finances, and clubs are unlikely to spend large sums on players who have failed to live up to their potential.
Pepe’s future remains uncertain, but one thing is clear: he needs to show more if he wants to secure a permanent move away from Arsenal. Whether he can do that remains to be seen, but he will need to work hard and improve his performances if he wants to convince Nice or any other club that he is worth signing.