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GUNNERS Mikel Arteta and Arsenal reaping benefits of timely parting gift left by Nicolas Pepe



Arsenal flop Nicolas Pepe is spending the season on loan with French side Nice, and while his £72m move to North London hasn’t gone as planned, he has played a role in Mikel Arteta’s Premier League title charge

For £72million, Nicolas Pepe hasn’t done much good for Arsenal.…CONTINUE READING

Still a club-record signing nearly four years after making the move from Lille to North London, the Ivorian winger failed to truly shine in the Premier League, seemingly weighed down by his eye-watering price tag. Following 27 goals and 21 assists in 112 appearances, plenty of Gunners supporters were happy to see Pepe return to France last summer when he joined Nice on a season-long loan.

Despite the 27-year-old recently claiming that he enjoyed “some very good experiences” on the pitch, perhaps his most important contribution to Arsenal will go down as one he made off it.

Back in early 2020, before Covid-19 ensued and shut down much of the world, Gabriel Magalhaes had undergone a preliminary medical ahead of a proposed move to Everton.

The Brazilian centre-back, enjoying his first season as a regular starter for Lille, was on course to make the move to Goodison Park before the global pandemic delayed the transfer and saw the Ligue 1 campaign curtailed.

With on-field action at a pause, Arsenal took their chance and swooped in – thanks to Pepe’s help. Having formerly been team-mates with Gabriel, the Ivory Coast international got in touch on the Gunners’ behalf and made the difference.

“In the winter [of 2020], before the championship ended, I was already supposed to sign for Everton,” Gabriel explained last year in quotes carried by Le Petit Lillois.

“I passed my medical examination etc, but it was not done. I had already planned to leave after this season. I spoke with Napoli, Everton again, then I finally chose Arsenal thanks to Nicolas Pepe who sold me the club well.”

Ultimately signing for Arsenal in a £25m transfer deal on September 1, Pepe’s pal took a short while to get to grips with the rigours of being a Premier League centre-back, but is now arguably one of the division’s best during his third and most exciting term.

Forging an imperious partnership, or “marriage”, with Frenchman William Saliba – another Ligue 1 export – Gabriel has been instrumental in helping Mikel Arteta’s side sit five points clear at the top of the table, boasting the second-most clean sheets – 11 in 25 games.

Back in October, after a flying start to the campaign and two months before his 25th birthday, Arsenal tied the defender down on a five-year contract extension. A delighted Arteta told club media: “Gabi has shown huge qualities since he joined us. He is a young player with a great work ethic and his consistent strong performances have been hugely important to us over the past two seasons.

“Working with Gabi every day is a pleasure, he has formed strong relationships with everyone at the club and we’e so pleased that he has committed to us on a long-term contract.”

Gunners sporting director Edu Gaspar, a fellow Brazilian, added: “It’s great that we’ve agreed a new deal with Gabi. At 24, he’s still a young player and is part of our future. His performances since he joined us in 2020 have been very strong and his positive impact to our results have been clear for everyone to see.

“He has grown so much on and off the pitch, with both his contribution and communication on and off the pitch. We all look forward to see Gabi continue to grow as an important part of our club.”

With his future committed to Arsenal until 2027, it’s hoped that Gabriel will get his hands on a Premier League winners medal sooner rather than later. Entering the final 13 games of the league season, his partnership with Saliba will no-doubt be crucial if the Gunners are to win their first English title in almost two decades.

Pepe won’t receive a medal but he should certainly get a big thanks..…CONTINUE READING

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