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Wilfried Zaha speaks on Nicolas Pepe blocking his move to Arsenal

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Wilfried Zaha revealed that he almost secured a move to the Emirates Stadium before the North London outfit settled for the signature of Nicolas Pepe in 2019.

“I had a conversation with the manager, actually,” he told Jamie Carragher on The Greatest Games podcast

“He was just like, ‘we don’t need to go through much’. He’s seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that. It was like, ‘yeah, we’d love to have you’, and I was just like, ‘I’d love to come’.

“The conversation was rather straightforward because I’ve played against him when he’s managed Arsenal, he’s seen what I can do, he’s seen my work rate, what I can add to the team. Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose, and obviously, they chose Pepe over me.”

Zaha feels his would-be employers missed it by deciding against the player who had proven himself in England, noting that they would have taken his domestic experience into account.

“I just think if there’s a player who plays in the Premier League who you see week in, week out, and you know what he does… I feel like it’s a no-brainer,” he went on. The other leagues, I feel like they are totally different. In the Prem, there are no easy games whatsoever. Every team is going to give you a run for your money. There’s no game where you’re going to go, ‘yeah, we’re going to win 5-0’.

“That’s my thought. I feel like when players come from abroad, I don’t know, they just have that edge with clubs, it’s just like [they say], ‘yeah, I may want him a bit more because he’s from there’.”

However, the North London outfit have not had the best from Nicolas Pepe about 18 months after his signature as he has struggled to deliver the promise he gave when he was first recruited into the team.

Meanwhile, the other hand, Zaha remains a better player than Nicolas Pepe as per rating in the Premier League.

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Arteta hints on why David Luiz isn’t leaving Arsenal anytime soon

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Arsenal boss has been full of praise for Brazilian international, David Luiz which gives an hint that he would not be leaving the club anytime soon.

Owing to his age and his level at the moment, it was expected that the former Chelsea defender would be signing out of the Emirates Stadium in the summer but that wasn’t the case.

The fact that the North London outfit now boast of younger defenders, including Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holdings and on loan William Saliba, makes pundits speculate a shorter spell for Luiz, rather, Mikel Arteta has showered praise on him as a role model to the younger ones.

Also, David Luiz has been described as a liability, a blundering Brazilian prone to game-changing errors, Mikel Arteta has some sweet words for him.

“They listen to him because of who he is and what he has done in the game,” Arteta said. “But also because of how he behaves every day, how professional he is and how he goes about the job. He is one of the key role models.”

“Even at this age he is always looking at his games and clips, all the time asking questions. When that happens you can still improve as a player and I think that’s why he is performing the way he is.

“He is a really honest man with himself. He has won everything and it is a joy to work with him.”
There have been no formal discussions over a new contract yet, although Arteta says they are in a “good position” as they talk “all the time about this kind of thing”.

He added that “This season has been really tough in the beginning because he’s been through some injuries but he’s kept at it, he understood his role, he knows his role in the team, he’s one of our leaders and he’s so willing to keep improving”

Asked if he spoke to Luiz about an extension, Arteta replied: ‘No, there are still a few months to go on that. I all the time talk to him about this kind of thing so we’re in a good position.

“He showed his character first of all with the decision he made to join the club when he was with a club where he was winning trophies and he was still comfortable and under contract.

“And he wanted a challenge. And at that age it tells you everything because normally at that age the challenge is not sporting but more a financial decision that you take to go to a different country.”

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Keane reveals one flaw made by Edu

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Arsenal chief Edu might have been hailed for his transfer activities, even by manager Mikel Arteta but he seems to have ‘goofed’ with one of the transfer decisions he made in 2020.

This was exposed by Man United legend Roy Keane who told Sky Sports that the North London outfit chief failed to make a good bargain for goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, hinting that he was sold cheaply.

Arsenal parted ways with Emiliano Martinez in 2020, shortly after he helped the club to win the FA Cup and the Community Shield for Aston Villa with a fee worth £17 million.

During his last days at the Emirates Stadium, Emiliano Martinez was favoured with playing time due to the injury of Bernd Leno and he was able to prove that he is a world-class goalkeeper.

Arsenal actually wanted to keep him but he was keen on a move to secure regular football as Mikel Arteta was clear about Bernd Leno as his first-choice.

Since that move, Emiliano Martinez has been apt for Aston Villa, ten clean sheets this season for the European-chasing side too – only Man City have more.

Manchester United legend Keane lauded the impact Martinez has had in the Midlands and the ‘huge difference’ he has made.

“Recruitment was right for Aston Villa,” said Keane. “I know they got promoted and there was a lot of players [brought in]. 12 or 13 out of contracts. Lots of changes.

“So, last season was expected that it was going to be hard work. But this season, I bet they cannot believe how well they are doing. They had a great start to the season when they won their first four games.

“Dean Smith used the word ‘platform’ and probably belief. And again, we talk about the signings.

“The goalkeeper has been such a huge bonus. To be able to get him at £17 or 20 million has been cheap really. And he has made a huge difference really. They are good to watch.”

While Bernd Leno has also been outstanding at the North London outfit, the wish by Mikel Arteta is to keep both goalkeepers at the club but that Emiliano Martinez was not ready to stay.

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Why William Saliba may not wish to return to Arsenal again

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There is no doubt that William Saliba was not happy about his snub at the Emirates Stadium and that is enough to force him away from the club despite being touted to have a future at the Emirates Stadium.

The 19-year-old did not get a single appearance for the Gunners first team in the first half of the season, the reason why he was released back to Ligue 1 on loan to join Nice.

He arrived at the Emirates Stadium in the summer of 2019 from Saint-Etienne in a deal estimated to be worth around £27 million ($37m), spending the 2019-20 season on loan at the French club under the terms of the transfer.

The Nice loanee has, therefore, spoken out on his frustration at not being given the opportunity to show his worth on a regular basis in the Arsenal first team.

The defender failed to make a single appearance for Arsenal, and at the start of January, he returned to Ligue 1 on another short-term move.

The story has changed for William Saliba as he has since become a fixture in the Nice first team and believes he had something to offer Arteta as part of his defensive plans.

“I really, really, really didn’t think that I would be transferred for almost €30m,” the youngster explained to TF1.

“To think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me, the fans were excited about me and you find yourself in the reserves, playing zero – nothing in the Europa League or the Premier League.

“I was in the squad once in the EFL Cup. It hurt me, it affected me. I don’t think I left too early. When you feel ready you have to go. These things happen. I believe in myself.”

Despite being happy with his new life and first team football, Saliba will not want to dwell much on what the future holds but there is no doubt he was not happy at the Emirates Stadium and that could be a factor to consider.

“I have learned now that it is better not to look too far in the future,” he added. “I am focused on just these six months to try to give absolutely everything and for the rest we will see.

“For me, the best decision was to join Nice because there is a good project, a good team, a good level of ambition and they like to play in a certain way.

“It feels good to play and to have consistent game time. I am young, I am 19, and it is by playing matches like this that you improve.

“You see what mistakes you make and you correct them for the next match”

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