Arsenal reportedly blocked a move for Nicolas Pepe in the January window as Lyon and Marseille failed to sign the winger.

According to L’Equipe, as relayed by Sport Witness, Arsenal stopped a possible move for Nicolas Pepe in the January window even as multiple teams from Ligue 1 attempted to sign the winger. Marseille and Lyon were keen on bringing the Ivorian back to France, but the Gunners were not eager to sanction a departure.

Arsenal had an indifferent window, for which they have received much criticism from fans and pundits alike. Mikel Arteta spent a chunk of the month chasing Serie A pair Dusan Vlahovic and Arthur Melo but managed to sign neither of those players. Eventually, they ended the window without any senior signings while allowing several players to leave the club.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Barcelona aside, the other departees were barely playing for the first team anyway, so their exit is unlikely to affect them greatly. The big issue fans raised was the club’s squad size and depth. With the Gabonese forward departing, Arsenal now only have two senior strikers in Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah to lead the line.

Over in Africa, a certain Nicolas Pepe was tearing it up at the Africa Cup of Nations, showing contrasting form in the continental tournament, which has been missing this season at Arsenal. The Ivorian managed three goals before his team were eliminated in the knockout rounds.

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After scoring 16 goals in all competitions last season, Pepe has been in miserable form this term, netting just a solitary assist in the Premier League and scoring no goals to date. Yet, those at Arsenal highly value his attacking prowess, despite Arteta relegating him to a bench role for the best part of two months.

His irregular playing time attracted speculation before January, with Premier League clubs rumoured to hold an interest in the winger. While there have been no problems between Pepe and Arteta, there were concerns the manager might have lost faith in the player.

The major issue has been the form of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli on either wing, which has had an impact on Pepe’s game-time. However, the departure of Aubameyang could lend him more playing time in the 17 games Arsenal are left to play in the league.

Arsenal did not want to lose any more of their players, especially after the club failed to sign a recognised striker. Hence they rejected reported offers from Marseille and Lyon, who were keen to bring the Ivorian back to France, as both clubs were looking for smart deals to be done in the window.

Pepe has previously turned up for Lille, helping them win flourish in Ligue 1, and hence there were no surprises as Marseille and Lyon targeted the Arsenal forward. The Ivorian could yet play a key role in helping Arsenal finish in the top four with good performances from here on.

With two years left on his contract, Pepe enters a defining period of his Arsenal career. If he does not raise his game from this point, he could probably be sold in the summer, although this stance could change if the winger starts contributing significantly to the club’s cause.

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