Rob Holding

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Arsenal eye Coutinho, defenders ahead of transfer deadline

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Let’s start with the big one: A report from L’Equipe in France states that Arsenal are closing in a season-long loan move for Philippe Coutinho.

The Barcelona and Brazil star, 27, has struggled since swapping Anfield for the Nou Camp and the former Liverpool superstar is reportedly keen on a move back to the Premier League.

Per the report, Coutinho will spend the season on loan at Arsenal and will not be heading to Paris Saint-Germain, the club he has been linked to on numerous occasions as Neymar has been linked with a move back to Barcelona all summer long.

After signing Nicolas Pepe for $87 million, adding Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid and still having Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on board, quite why Arsenal would want another mercurial playmaker is beyond pretty much everyone.

Except, most importantly, Arsenal.


The Gunners finally appear to be willing to sign a new central defender. But is it too late?

With just over 48 hours to go until the transfer window shuts for Premier League clubs, Arsenal have been linked with moves for two center backs.

RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and Juventus’ Daniele Rugani are the two players mentioned in a report from the Guardian.

The former would be a tricky deal given the fact that Leipzig want $85 million for their 20-year-old central defender, plus Upamecano is keen to play in the UEFA Champions League for the Bundesliga side this season.

As for Rugani, it is believed Juve are open to an initial loan deal and then selling him next summer which could suit the Gunners as they reportedly have just over $50 million to spend this summer. Those reports broke before a record-breaking $87 million move for winger Pepe, but remember, that deal is to be paid in several instalments.

One thing is certain: Arsenal need help defensively. And they have done for about a decade now.

Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin will return from injury this season to boost Unai Emery‘s options but with Laurent Koscielny heading to Bordeaux and the likes of Shkodran Mustafi still around, Arsenal are looking at the likes of Sokratis and Callum Chambers to step up in defense this season. They did buy William Saliba, 18, this summer but he has gone back on loan to Saint-Etienne for the upcoming campaign, so they are no better off than least season when their leaky defense cost them finishing in the top four.

Like Manchester United, it has been pretty comical to see Arsenal blatantly ignore their need to sign new defenders in recent seasons and instead prioritize buying attacking player after attacking player.

Rugani, 25, would seem more likely to arrive and if that does happen, all of a sudden the Gunners are in the conversation for having one of the best transfer windows for PL clubs this summer.

Report: Koscielny agrees terms with Bordeaux

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In the blink of an eye, Laurent Koscielny has gone from one of Arsenal’s longest-serving players to potentially leaving the club this week.

[READ: Premier League season previews]

According to L’Equipe, Laurent Koscielny has agreed terms with Bordeaux, and is set to undergo a medical on Tuesday to determine if the transfer will go through. Koscielny is going into the last year of his contract at Arsenal, and he’s essentially walking out from  Arsenal during preseason.

Upset at not being offered a better new contract, the 33-year-old, who turns 34 in September, refused to go with Arsenal on its tour of the U.S. this summer.

Koscielny has been a key member of Arsenal’s squad since joining in 2010 from Lorient. He was a regular starter every year since then until April 2018, when he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon. Since then, though he’s returned to the field, he has seemed to be a step slower than before, which is understandable.

Even so, it’s a huge blow to Arsenal. The Gunners have spent millions so far upgrading their squad in midfield and attacking areas, but defense is a huge question mark and the club hasn’t been successful signing a new player yet.

With the Premier League transfer window ending on Thursday, will Arsenal have time to sign a replacement? Or will Rob Holding and Calum Chambers he asked to take a huge jump in their careers and lead this team back to the Champions League.

Arsenal sign Nicolas Pepe for $87 million

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Nicolas Pepe is officially an Arsenal player.

The Ivory Coast winger, 24, has arrived for a club-record fee believed to be in the region of $87 million.

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Arsenal will pay this huge transfer fee in instalments, as previously their transfer kitty for this summer was rumored to be around $55 million.

Pepe was unveiled by the Gunners on Thursday and will wear the No.19 shirt, and his new manager Unai Emery seems incredibly excited to welcome the attacker to the Emirates Stadium.

“Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” Emery said. “Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining. He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team.”

Asked about his emotions upon signing for Arsenal, Pepe revealed that he has admired their French players from afar for many years and is delighted to arrive in the Premier League.

“Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me. I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward,” Pepe said.

The Ivory Coast star burst onto the scene last season at Lille, scoring 22 goals in Ligue 1 as they finished second and qualified for the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal’s attack will now boast Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Pepe, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and youngster Eddie Nketiah. Talk about options.

“When I knew I was coming to Arsenal, I immediately thought of the French guys who play here,” Pepe said. “I thought of Ozil, the world champions, Lacazette, Aubameyang and many more. Of course, these are the players who sprang to mind because I used to watch them when I was at Lille. Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him. It will be an honor to play alongside him.”

After hearing about this signing many will point to the fact that the Gunners have been trying to shore up their leaky defense for years, but that’s not Pepe’s problem.

One of the most exciting wingers in the game right now has arrived at Arsenal and this is a huge statement of intent from the club which finished fifth in the Premier League last season, agonizingly missing out on UCL qualification via the league and by losing in the UEFA Europa League final to London rivals Chelsea.

Majority owner Stan Kroenke has been lambasted for failing to spend big money at Arsenal in recent years but after spending a combined $200 million on transfer fees alone on Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang, can the Gunners faithful finally cut him some slack?

Probably not.

And that’s probably because Arsenal are still two defensive players away from being a real force in the Premier League this season and beyond. Kieran Tierney could arrive at left back, while the return from injury of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding will boost their defensive options. But with Laurent Koscielny on his way out, the Gunners still look short of options defensively.

Still, it seems like Emery’s plan is now to win games 6-4 or 5-3 and neutrals everywhere will be keen to watch that with Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang in full flow as Dani Ceballos and Mesut Ozil tee them up.

One way or another, it is going to be a lot of fun to watch Arsenal play this season.

Report: Nicolas Pepe agrees to Arsenal move

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Nicolas Pepe is set to become an Arsenal player this week in a club-record transfer.

The Ivory Coast international, 24, has returned from his break following the Africa Cup of Nations and Lille are said to have agreed $87 million deals with both Arsenal and Napoli to sell him this summer.

Pepe is also said to be attracting a late bid from Paris Saint-Germain, but Sky Sports say that Pepe has decided he will move to Arsenal. The report adds that he will undergo a medical in London in the coming days.

What’s that? Oh yes, we thought Arsenal didn’t have any money to spend this summer. Apparently they do.

The $87 million deal for Pepe will be paid in several instalments by Arsenal in order to fit into their financial plans, with Unai Emery‘s side winning the race for his signature.

Pepe scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season as Lille finished second behind PSG, and only Kylian Mbappe was involved in more goals as the tricky winger (who can also play as a center forward) added 11 assists in the league.

But do Arsenal really need another attacking player? It would appear the one area of their squad which is well-stocked with options, but when a player of Pepe’s ability, and potential, becomes available then you have to snap him up.

The Gunners never got close to the $100 million valuation Crystal Palace wanted for Wilfried Zaha, but it is clear that Emery wants a speedy winger to link up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack. What this means for the futures of Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains to be seen, but Pepe’s arrival is a major coup as Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich were all linked with signing Pepe.

If the signing of Dani Ceballos on a season-long from Real Madrid excited Arsenal’s fans, this deal for Pepe will knock their socks off. In addition, signing highly-rated teenage center back William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for $33 million then loaning him back for this season is another positive move. That last transfer doesn’t help Arsenal where they need help most (defense) this season, and that is still the concern regarding their chances of finishing in the top four.

They conceded 51 PL goals last season, the third most of teams who finished in the top 10, and they’ve also seen club captain Laurent Koscielny refuse to go on their U.S. tour during preseason as he wants a move away from the club. However, Rob Holding‘s return from injury is a big boost and Hector Bellerin is also set to come back soon after a lengthy spell out.

Emery has to deliver a top four finish this season and now that he’s had an entire campaign to bed in his ideas, he must deliver a return to the Champions League for the Gunners. Pepe will help that push in a big way, but Arsenal must get better defensively if they’re going to be a success under Emery.

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.