Pepe became Arsenal's club-record signing and the expectations from him were sky-high from the beginning. The Ivorian came into the club showing great promise.
His numbers with Lille were outstanding, as he scored 37 goals in 80 appearances for the French club. He looked exactly like the type of player Arsenal needed. Having now completed two years with the Gunners, it's fair to say the transfer has not reaped the rewards that were initially expected.
Although the expectations from Pepe were admittedly lofty right from the start, it was expected that he would at least become a starter for the Gunners. Two years later, he still faces stiff competition from English youngster Bukayo Saka, who is often preferred to the Ivorian.
His output for Arsenal has been underwhelming overall. In 95 appearances for the club, he has scored 25 goals and provided 17 assists. Although Pepe did star in some crucial games in the UEFA Europa League, Arsenal were certainly looking for higher output for that price.
Let's take a look at five players who Arsenal could've signed instead of Nicolas Pepe.
#5. Jeremy Doku - Rennes
Jeremy Doku has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame over the past couple of years.
Starting his career with Anderlecht in Belgium, the youngster grabbed a lot of attention with his mature displays at a very young age. Capable of occupying either wing, Doku is known for his direct play and outstanding dribbling.
It must, however, be said that Doku made his debut only in 2018. When Pepe was signed by Arsenal in 2019, the Belgian had only one year of top-flight experience under his belt. The club's decision not to consider Doku made sense at the time, but there could have been a lot to gain by waiting a year.
The 19-year-old moved to Rennes in France last year, replacing Raphinha who moved to Leeds United in the same window. The youngster has been impressive since, even earning a call-up to the Belgian national team in 2020.
Still at the very beginning of his career, Doku certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
#4. David Neres - Ajax
David Neres has developed into one of Ajax's most important players.
The Brazilian signed with the Amsterdam outfit in 2017 and has improved significantly over the past four years. His best skills include his dribbling and his excellent use of space.
Neres has been fantastic for Ajax. In the 2017-18 season, he scored 14 goals and also provided 13 assists in 32 league appearances. This season established his place as one of the club's most important members.
In the coming years, Neres received several inquiries from the likes of Atletico Madrid and Manchester United. He even received offers from China, but chose to stay at the Johann Cruyff Arena. He would've been a great signing for Arsenal if it had happened.
His movement off the ball and his effectiveness in the box have made Neres a standout performer. Neres is equally capable of dribbling on the wings as well as cutting in to shoot, making him a tricky customer overall.
With his contract running out next year, Ajax will have their task cut out for them if they want to extend the Brazilian's contract.