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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.

AFCON wrap: Algeria, Tunisia complete semifinalists

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Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinals are set for Cairo, as Tunisia will meet Senegal and Algeria tangles with Nigeria.

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All but Senegal have won AFCON crowns, though Nigeria is the only one to claim the honors in the last seven tournaments.

Madagascar 0-3 Tunisia

A two-goal burst from Ferjani Sassi and Youssef Mskani by the hour mark prodded Tunisia past the surprising Barea.

Naimi Sliti scored deep into stoppage time to complete the score line, which ends Madagascar’s first AFCON with three wins (one by penalties), a draw, and this loss.

Tunisia last won AFCON in 2004.

Algeria 1-1 (4-3 pens) Ivory Coast

Sofiane Feghouli gave Algeira a first half lead, but Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa) answered at the hour mark for the only goals of regulation.

Youcef Belaïli smashed the post with his bid to score the winning penalty, but Les Elephants could not take advantage of the opening. Serey Die his the same post with similar vigor and Algeria moved to within two wins of its title and final since 1990.

AFCON quarterfinals, Live: Ivory Coast v. Algeria, Madagascar v. Tunisia

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Two huge quarterfinals take place at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday, as some heavyweight semifinals clashes are about to be set up.

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Ivory Coast and Algeria clash in Suez as Premier League wing-wizards Riyad Mahrez and Wilfried Zaha go head-to-head. For many, this would be a spectacular final, so plenty is expected as the winner of this massive clash will play against Nigeria on Sunday.

In Thursday’s other quarterfinal surprise package Madagascar take on Tunisia, with the latter favored to advance. However, the Barea have already finished top of their group at the tournament this summer and knocked out DR Congo on penalty kicks in the Round of 16. Beware, Tunisia. Whoever wins this clash will face Sadio Mane’s Senegal in the semfinals.

Below is the full schedule for the AFCON action on Thursday, while you can follow all of the action live by clicking on the link above.


2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Thursday, July 11

Quarterfinals
Ivory Coast. Algeria – 12 p.m. ET
Madagascar v. Tunisia – 3 p.m. ET

AFCON Wrap: Zaha wins it for Ivory Coast

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The Wilfried Zaha to Arsenal rumors will continue for another few days, because the Premier League star isn’t done having his say at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

Zaha followed a long ball forward and latched onto it just before Mali goalkeeper Djigui Diarra could get off his line, as Zaha finished past Diarra to lead the Ivory Coast to a 1-0 win over Mali, on Monday in Egypt. With the win, the Ivory Coast advances to quarterfinals, where it will face Algeria on Thursday. Algeria beat Guinea, 3-0, on Sunday.

It was a match of numerous missed chances. Mali’s Moussa Marenga and Youssouf Kone had multiple chances they skied over the bar, and in one case, Kone had a shot saved by Ivory Coast’s Sylvain Gbohouo. In the second half, Jonathan Kodjia of Ivory Coast and Adama Traore of Mali traded chances, but few shots were placed on target as both teams looked set to go to penalty kicks. Of the ones that were on target, most were tame efforts, with both team’s defenses nullifying any clear chances in the box.

Ultimately, it was the long ball that Zaha was quickest to on the second phase after an initial header, finishing into an open net and running towards his bench in elation after scoring.

Elsewhere, Tunisia stunned Ghana, winning 5-4 on penalty kicks. Tunisia advances to play Cinderella Madagascar on Thursday in the quarterfinals.