Mikel Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on whether Arsenal need to learn lessons from the departure of Nicolas Pepe but he wished the player well after the decision was taken to terminate the player’s contract a year early.
Much was expected of the Ivory Coast international when he was signed for a then club-record fee of £72 million. Unfortunately, in a team that started losing its way under Unai Emery, it was difficult for him to replicate the form he’d displayed the year before for Lille.
While Arsenal fans were treated to flashes of the winger’s mercurial brilliance, he found it difficult to assert himself on matches consistently and eventually fell down the pecking order behind Bukayo Saka.
“I don’t know, I wasn’t involved in the process of that deal,” replied Arteta when asked if the club should analyse why such a big deal didn’t work out.
“What I can say about him as a person, he’s a phenomenal boy. He tried really hard. He did his bit. It’s not his fault the amount of money that we paid at the time. And that’s it.
“When things are not working, you have to move on. There’s no point trying when something is not working either way. That decision has been made and I think it’s in the benefit of all parties.”
Earlier this week, the player confirmed he was joining Trabzonspor and in an early interview said the transition-heavy style of Turkish football should suit his strengths.
Asked whether he feels sad at not being able to get the best out of Pepe, Arteta said: “Yes, but obviously there are moments for players, not only him but, Rob [Holding] leaving, Flo leaving, and all the other ones that have been on loan as well.
“You have an emotional attachment to them, you have tried to get the best out of them. But there are periods, and sometimes it’s not about the will of the player, but it’s a player that plays in his position as well that does so well; there are many factors, but what we certainly want is to wish all of them the best and hopefully they can fulfil their dreams somewhere else.”
Pepe isn’t the first out-of-favour player to be paid off – eight others went through similar negotiations on their way out in recent years – but the club will be hoping he’s the last for a while. It’s certainly not a trend we want to become known for even if Arteta made clear that the circumstances behind such decisions were unique in each case.
“I think every case has been very, very different. Always at the end, it’s a few parties that have to agree to something, it’s not a decision that I take [alone],” he said.