Arsenal pay record £72m fee for Lille’s Pepe

August 2 – Arsenal have completed a club-record £72 million deal to sign Nicolas Pepe from French club Lille OSC in a bid to bolster their squad ahead of the new Premier League season.

It has been a summer of discontent in North London with captain Laurent Koscielny seeking an exit from the club and fans revolting against what they say is the passive ownership of Stan Kroenke after May’s Europa League defeat to Chelsea meant another season without Champions League football for the Gunners. But some of that frustration has been alleviated by the signing of the Ivorian winger in a deal that shatters the club’s previous transfer record of £56 million for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Earlier this week the 24-year-old underwent a medical at Arsenal’s training ground London Colney after his representatives finalised a five-year contract with the Arsenal. He becomes the most expensive African player ever and the third most expensive signing in Premier League history behind Paul Pogba (£89 million) and Virgil van Dijk (£75 million).

“Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” said Arsenal coach Unai Emery.  “Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives 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.”

Last season Pepe scored 22 goals in 38 Ligue 1 matches last season. His 11 assists were also crucial in Lille’s run to second spot in the table, the club’s best finish since their league title in the 2010/11 season.

With the deal Arsenal move away from the years of austerity that earmarked the Arsene Wenger period. The Frenchman’s transfer policies were hamstrung by the club’s need to pay for their new stadium and his innate reluctance to spend heavily in a market that has become heavily inflated in the last couple of seasons.

Arsenal will still pay the fee in structured instalments spread out over a number of years. The club had tried to sign Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, but decided that a full payment of his fee would have been a heavier burden on Arsenal’s budget.

On Sunday Arsenal play FC Barcelona in the Joan Gamper Trophy as they wrap preparations for the new season, which the Gunners kick off on August 11 away to Newcastle United.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1566691506labto1566691506ofdlr1566691506owedi1566691506sni@t1566691506catno1566691506c1566691506