Emery: I wanted Arsenal to sign Zaha not Pepe


Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery has revealed that he pressed for the club to sign Crystal Palace star Wilfred Zaha instead of Nicolas Pepe.

Emery made this known in a chat from his Valencia home in Spain which was published on Daily Mail.

Arsenal were linked with a move for Zaha but ended up signing his Cote d’Ivoire teammate Pepe for a club record £72 million.

And recalling why he would have rather gone for Zaha instead of Pepe, Emery said: “Pepe is a good player but he needs time. When I was there he didn’t give me the performances. I was in favour of someone coming who knew the English league, more than anything so that he wouldn’t need a period of adaptation. I had a meeting with Zaha, the Palace player.

 “He was the player I wanted because I could see that he won so many games on his own.

“I saw 20 Zaha games, some incredible performances and I told them that this is the player that I want for this team.

“I spoke to Zaha. I had been with him personally. And he wanted to come.

“But the club decided that Pepe was younger, he was one for the future. I said: yes, but we need to win now and this lad [Zaha] wins games. He did it to us!”

Commenting on the young players at Arsenal who he had the chance to work with, Emery singled out Bukayo describing him as a player that would be sensational.

 “Bukayo Saka debuted against Fulham, he played eight minutes and he never touched the ball, but that was a first step for a 17-year-old who I think is going to be a sensational player,”he says.

The former Paris Saint-Germain boss touched on his relationship with Mesut Ozil and revealed that the former Real Madrid star was not chosen as captain at Arsenal by his teammates due to his level of commitment.

“I tried my utmost to help Ozil. Throughout my career, talented players have been my favorites and they have played at their best or close to their best with me.

“I was always positive with him in terms of wanting him to be involved, but then the attitude that he adopted, and the commitment levels, well, they weren’t enough.

“One of the captains could possibly have been Ozil but the dressing room didn’t want him to be captain. His level of commitment was not that of someone who deserved to be captain, and that’s not what I decided, that’s what the players decided.”

And on Mikel Arteta replacing him as Arsenal manager, Emery backed the decision.

He added: “He’s an ex-Arsenal player. So he has the profile to coach Arsenal. And he has worked with [Pep] Guardiola for a few years.

“I think after my departure, he was the correct choice. There are changes necessary to, bit by bit, get Arsenal back in their rightful place and he has the qualities to do that.

“I spoke with him in December. And we talked for a bit about various things. I want the best for him, and I want the best for Arsenal.”


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