Emery admits Arsenal is working to sign Pepe, others this window

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery all but confirmed reports that Arsenal is in the process of reportedly smashing its transfer record to sign Nicolas Pepe.

Speaking after Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat to Lyon back home in London for the Emirates Cup, Emery said that Arsenal is currently working to improve the squad, and mentioned that Pepe is one of many players that the club has a possibility of signing this summer.

[READ: Is Arsenal gambling with big summer spending spree?]

“We are working, the club, and also thinking about how we can improve,” Emery said, via Arsenal’s website. “There are different players on the table with the possibility that we can achieve their signature. Pepe is a very good player and also we are thinking only of players who can really, really improve this squad and also give us some different conditions to improve. The same, we are working for the last few weeks and before starting the season in the first match in Newcastle, our aim is to get the best team with the best players in our squad.

Arsenal has made three signings to the first team this summer, but one, William Saliba, won’t be in the team until next season. The other two, Gabriel Martinelli and Dani Ceballos, while talented, don’t have the same name recognition and gravitas or potential as a player like Pepe. The Ivory Coast winger scored 22 goals to go with 11 assists in Ligue 1 last year, making him a Best XI candidate for the league over the course of the season.

On Friday, reports across England stated that Arsenal had a bid of around $100 million agreed to sign Pepe, and all Arsenal needed was for Pepe to agree personal terms with the club. Napoli had been another reported destination for Pepe this summer as Lille looks to cash in on their 24-year-old star.

In his press conference, Emery also was asked to address why it seems Arsenal is signing attacking players when there is a real need to upgrade in defense.

“We are deciding how we can improve,” Emery said. “At the beginning we were thinking to do one player to achieve the possibility to sign, but only if we can really, really improve this position. It’s one centerback, one midfielder and one winger and we are going to (try) to do that. We are thinking the same. I want a team that is better than last year, so the players can achieve a lot being with us this season. Also we have a very good team. Only the players that can improve and help the squad [will be brought in].”

Of course, with the signing of Saliba, Arsenal has acquired a centerback this summer. Yet, because Saliba is on loan with Saint-Etienne for the rest of this season, it doesn’t help the Gunners now as it looks to break back into the top four, an increasingly difficult challenge year over year. The return or Calum Chambers (loan) and Rob Holding (ACL tear) don’t exactly strike fear into opponents or confidence into Arsenal fans hearts.

But perhaps there’s a late trick up Emery’s sleeve, a transfer he’s been working on privately that can go through before the Premier League transfer window shuts on August 8.