The Lille forward is widely expected to leave France this summer – with several top European clubs battling for his signature
Nicolas Pepe looks set to make his Arsenal debut against Burnley this weekend after becoming the club’s record signing over the summer.
The 24-year-old took Ligue 1 by storm last season, netting 22 times and providing 11 assists to catch the eye of several top clubs – but it was the Gunners who won the race for his signature.
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Pepe moved to the Emirates after an exceptional season in France during which time he scored 23 goals in 41 appearances.
He penned a five-year deal with the north Londoners in a move that will cost the club around £73million.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery has hinted that Pepe could start against Burnley in the Premier League this weekend – a game live on talkSPORT – so here is all you need to know about the new Gun…
Who is Nicolas Pepe?
The French-born Ivorian started his career in the lower leagues of French football before eventually earning a transfer to Angers in 2013.
His professional debut came in November 2014 – a 1-1 draw against Ajaccio in Ligue 2.
Pepe spent a year in the B team before he was loaned out to fellow French side US Orleans to aid his development.
When he returned to Angers, he became a first-team regular, making 33 Ligue 1 appearances in the 2016/17 campaign.
His performances grabbed the attention of the Ivory Coast’s selectors, who gave him his first international cap in November 2016, and Lille were keeping tabs on him, too.
Pepe signed a five-year deal with Lille in the summer of 2017 for a reported £10m fee.
Since then, he has gone from strength-to-strength, quickly establishing himself as one of the most exciting players in France.
Last season, he bagged a hat-trick in the 3-2 Ligue 1 away win over Amiens SC.
Pepe was then the star of the show as Lille thrashed Paris Saint-Germain 5-1, notching a goal and two assists against the French champions.
Only PSG sensation Kylian Mbappe scored more goals than him in Ligue 1.
He’s a defender’s nightmare, with his pace, close control and directness causing them all sorts of problems.
“He amazes me, he amazes us,” his manager, Christoph Galtier said in February.
“He’s certain to become a world class player because he knows how to do everything. He doesn’t need an intermediate step. After the great season he’s having with us, he can go straight to a Champions League club.”
Speaking to talkSPORT, Lille defender Jose Fonte backed Pepe to be a huge hit at Arsenal.
The former West Ham and Southampton man said: “He’s incredible.
“If he can reach the same level that he did last year in Lille, which I believe he will, I think Arsenal fans will be very happy.
“He’s super quick, his left foot is silky, his 1v1 is second to none, he finishes really good, he takes penalties and free kicks.
“He’s a very accomplished player and I think Arsenal fans will be in for a treat.”