Unai Emery wanted to sign Wilfried Zaha instead of Nicolas Pépé

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Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal is challenged by Diego Rico of AFC Bournemouth during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on October 06, 2019 in London, United Kingdom
Photo: Getty Images Europe

Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery has claimed he was forced to sign Nicolas Pépé - when he wanted Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha instead.

Pépé became Arsenal's record signing when he completed a £72 million move from Lille last summer.

Despite the huge fanfare, the 24-year-old has failed to find a consistent run of form in North London and has managed just six goals in 32 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners.

And Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal in November and replaced by Mikel Arteta, has suggested he never wanted to sign the Ivorian winger in the first place.

Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, the Spaniard has made it clear that the club went against his wishes in the transfer market.

We signed Pépé. He's a good player but we didn't know his character and he needs time, patience.

I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn't need to adapt. Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: "This is the player I know and want."

I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pépé was one for the future. I said: "Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games." He beat us on his own.

It's also true he was expensive and Palace didn't want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.

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