The Crystal Palace winger made it clear to the Gunners that he was keen on making a move, but another Ivorian forward was snapped up instead
Wilfried Zaha has claimed he gave Arsenal a green light to make a move for him in the summer of 2019, but the Gunners “chose Nicolas Pepe over me”.
The Crystal Palace winger emerged as a top target for Unai Emery when added creativity on the flanks was sought at Emirates Stadium.
Zaha was keen on crossing London and linking up with the club he supported as a boy. Arsenal were, however, to turn their attention elsewhere and ended up investing a club-record £72 million ($98m) in Ivory Coast international Pepe.
Little value has been found, with the Gunners being left to ponder what could have been as Zaha continues to shine in the Premier League stage with Palace.
The 28-year-old told Jamie Carragher’s The Greatest Game Podcast on discussions with Arsenal and ultimately being overlooked in favour of an international team-mate: “I had a conversation with the manager.
“Emery was just like, ‘we don’t really need to go through much’. He said he’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that. He was like, ‘yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like, ‘yeah I’d love to come’.
“The conversation was rather straightforward because I played against him when he was manager of Arsenal. He saw what I could do, saw my work-rate, and what I could add to the team.
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose – and they chose Pepe over me.”
Zaha has contributed eight goals and two assists to the Palace cause this season having remained a talismanic presence at Selhurst Park, while Pepe has five efforts to his name at Arsenal.
The 25-year-old has underwhelmed since completing a big-money move from Lille, with Zaha still puzzled as to why the Gunners opted to take a sizeable risk on a player with no experience of life in England.
He added: “You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league – they’re always going to attract more attention – but I just think if there’s a player that plays in the Premier League, you see him week in, week out. You know what he does.
“I feel like it’s a no-brainer. The other leagues are totally different.”