Nicolas Pepe's transfer to Arsenal is 'not closed', says Emery

Lille’s president has claimed a move to London is imminent for the Ivorian, but the Gunners boss is more cautious

Arsenal coach Unai Emery says the proposed deal for Lille forward Nicolas Pepe has not yet been sealed, describing it as ‘not closed’.

Lille president Gerard Lopez told RMC Sport on Wednesday that Pepe’s move to Arsenal for £72.8 million (€80m/$88m) would soon be completed.

That fee would break Arsenal’s transfer record but Emery is cautious over the Ivory Coast international’s future, although he suggested Pepe may not be the last new arrival.

“He played here in Angers a few years ago, and then in Lille. He has progressed as a player,” Emery told reporters after a pre-season friendly against the Ligue 1 side. 

“We have different options. This one at the moment is not closed, but he is one we are following.”

Emery’s side beat Angers 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Stade Raymond-Kopa, with young winger Reiss Nelson staking his claim for first-team minutes by getting himself on the scoresheet.

It was an experimental squad named by Emery, but Arsenal are now without a win in their past three pre-season friendlies ahead of facing Barcelona in the Joan Gamper Trophy on Sunday.

“We are going to play the first match away against Newcastle, and tonight was a similar performance against that sort of opposition Angers, and also they were giving everything in their performance against us for their supporters,” Emery added.

“There were two very different halves. The first half they started harder than us and they scored. We didn’t control the game like we wanted. In the second half we became better to control the game, with the ball and having more chances to score.

“I think from the second half we deserved a better result. But the most important thing today was to work well physically and with different players. Also today the young players took some minutes, knowing we needed a performance against a difficult team here away.”

Arsenal face a tricky start to the new season, with the opening-day trip to Newcastle followed by a home fixture with Burnley.

They then play Liverpool and arch-rivals Tottenham, before rounding off their first five games with a short journey across London to Watford.

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