COMMENT: Just embrace it, Arsenal fans. Forget Stan. Josh. Forget ’em all. Just ride this wave of good will that Nicolas Pepe is generating around his arrival from Lille.
It’s now settled. An agreement between the two clubs even taking Arsenal aback by how swiftly it was achieved. Lillehad agreed terms with Napoli and Pepe did have a contract offer from the Italians in front of him. That Arsenal chose to go to the player first, before LOSC president Gerard Lopez, made all the difference. A bigger salary package forced Pepe into a rethink. And to Lopez’s credit, when it became clear his striker had chosen London over Naples, he was prepared to accept Arsenal’s very structured payment method. Lille will get their €80m, only not as fast as Napoli were willing to commit.
You know there’s something about a player when his peers are falling over eachother to celebrate him. Soon-to-be ex-teammate Jose Fonte has dubbed Pepe “incredible”, tipping the Ivorian to become a real Gooners’ favourite. Jeremie Boga, formerly of Chelsea, but now with Sassuolo, says he’ll be “really happy” for his international teammate should the Arsenal move go through. And mentor Didier Drogba admits he’s offered the striker advice this season and has been “amazed” by his form.
But the one to really summise the groundswell of good will now lifting up Pepe was Steven N’Zonzi. The Roma midfielder, once of Stoke City, posting a flashy mock up of Pepe in Arsenal gear. Whether it was N’Zonzi himself who put together the graphic, or one of his support team, it doesn’t matter – the message remains loud and clear. People within the game are happy for Pepe. They want to see him be successful. Arsenal aren’t just getting an exciting on-field talent, but also a much admired character.
Which is the same affection Arsenal and Kieran Tierney are generating. With agreement with Lille now settled, the Gunners returned to the negotiating table with Celtic for the fullback on Tuesday. The revival of talks being virtually confirmed by those inside the game.
Tierney’s Scotland captain Andrew Robertson, of Liverpool, was quick to catch the mood: “Whatever happens with KT is up to him and the people around him. He’ll make the right choice. He’s a Celtic boy through and through and you can’t take that away from him. Let’s see how it unfolds. Good luck to him whatever he does.”
Reds teammate Virgil van Dijk was another hoping the best for his old Hoops teammate: “It is not an easy step to make and you have to play well to do it. But he has the qualities.”
Pepe and Tierney. Two players whom have already achieved much in the game, but still boast the youth and potential to give Arsenal their best years. And even more importantly, two players highly admired by their peers. Not just for their talent, but their character and approach.
Just embrace it, Gooners. Momentum is now with Arsenal. A fortnight ago it was all about the big 16 and their open letter to Stan Kroenke. That son Josh was to reply within 24 hours was a victory for the supporters’ movement. It may not have met expectations. But it was a reaction. Just consider, better yet pity, those fans of Manchester United who put together a five-point public demand this week. There’s next-to-no chance of a Glazer or Ed Woodward, the club’s vice-chairman, emulating Kroenke Jr and responding. United’s higher ups don’t do fans’ outreach – they’re above all that.
Since that open letter, Arsenal’s supporters have elicited a reply from the board, seen Gabriel Martinelli score on debut, Dani Ceballos arrive from Real Madrid, Nicolas Pepe about to be signed and talks for Tierney revived. That’s not to mention Sami Khedira’s surprise appearance at the Emirates over the weekend and the chatter of one Juventus teammate, a very fed-up Daniele Rugani, following the German into negotiations with the Gunners.
Even the loan fee mentioned for Ceballos shouldn’t be cause for concern. Yes, £15m is a hefty price to pay for a 12 month deal. But inside London Colney there is a belief it could still yet represent a downpayment on the midfielder’s permanent fee. It was Ceballos, not Real Madrid, who insisted the permanent option be taken off the table. Real are ready to sell and if Everton and their support can convince Andre Gomes to cut ties with Barcelona, then there’s no reason why the same cannot be achieved by everyone connected to Arsenal.
Momentum is with the club. As is good will. It is proving to be a spectacular final few weeks of the transfer window for Arsenal. Just embrace it Gooners and enjoy the ride.