Mikel Arteta's squad clean up at Arsenal is nearing its conclusion, with Nicolas Pepe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles close to sealing away moves. The Gunners boss is keen to conclude the deals at the earliest as he wants to focus on making further additions, and has identified Wolves' Pedro Neto a top target.

The North London club were aggressive at the start of the transfer window, signing five players for a combined £113 million. Arteta then turned his attention to trimming his squad, which has seen a number of first-team players leave on permanent deals and on loan.

Pepe will become the next player to depart after French club OGC Nice reached an agreement to sign the Ivory Coast international on a season-long loan. According to The Athletic's David Ornstein, the deal will not include a buy option when it concludes in the summer of 2023.

Moreover, the 27-year-old has reportedly agreed to reduce his wages, most of which will be covered by the Ligue 1 club, in order to push through the move. Pepe is expected to arrive in France on Thursday to undergo medicals. The deal is expected to be finalised in the next 24 hours.

Nicolas Pepe
Nicolas Pepe scored a vital penalty in the first leg of Arsenal's Europa League semi-final against Villarreal AFP / JOSE JORDAN

The former Lille forward became Arsenal's club record signing when he arrived from France in a deal worth £72 million in 2019. Pepe failed to live up to expectations, managing just 27 goals in 112 appearances for the Gunners, which has seen Arteta push to move him on and make room for a new arrival.

On the contrary, Maitland-Niles has spent his entire football career with Arsenal. The 24-year-old came up through the youth ranks before breaking into the first-team under Arsene Wenger. The English midfielder has made 132 appearances for the senior team while also spending a number of seasons out on loan.

Maitland-Niles spend the 2021-22 season on loan with AS Roma, but the Serie A giants refused to make it permanent at the end of the campaign. Arteta wants the England international to find a new home this summer, and the midfielder has attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs.

According to Italian transfer expert Fabrizio Romano, Southampton are currently leading the race to sign Maitland-Niles on loan for the season with an option to make it permanent in 2023. The Saints are aware of interest in the midfielder from two other domestic rivals, and are keen to beat them to the midfielder's signature.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal Getty Images | Robbie Jay Barratt

Once Arsenal conclude deals for Pepe and Maitland-Niles, Arteta is expected to shift focus back to incomings. Wolves' Neto currently occupies the top spot in the Spanish coach's wanted list, but the Premier League club's £50 million demand is proving to be a major obstacle.

The Portugal international's desire to move to the Emirates Stadium could give the north Londoners an advantage in their pursuit. But as per Romano, Neto will not force his current employers' hand by demanding a move this summer.

"Neto would be really tempted by Arsenal," Romano said, as quoted on the Evening Standard. "I'm told that the player is another factor in this story. He's not forcing anything but he would be really keen."

Pedro Neto
Pedro Neto (centre) scored the winner for Wolves at Southampton POOL / Andy Rain