Arsenal Likely XI when they face Liverpool on Saturday, Unai Emery suggested he is ready to hand record signing Nicolas Pepe a first Arsenal start in Saturday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool. The Ivory Coast star is yet to start for the Gunners but that could change when they visit Liverpool on Saturday
The Ivory Coast forward arrived in a deal that could reach a reported €80 million (£72m/$89m) from Lille in the close season but has been limited to substitute appearances in wins over Newcastle United and Burnley.
Gunners boss Emery has been reluctant to thrust the 24-year-old into action due to a lack of pre-season preparation at Arsenal.
Heading into what will be by far his greatest test of this fledgling season Unai Emery has as strong a squad as he could have hoped to choose from as he looks to end Arsenal’s woeful run against Liverpool.
In seven games against Jurgen Klopp’s side Arsenal have conceded 23 goals. Only once in the six games since the start of 2016 has the Gunners defence stopped Liverpool from scoring three or more goals.
But in Arsenal’s last visit to Anfield they were ransacked 5-1 by Jurgen Klopp’s men and Emery says the test against the Reds is an opportunity for his side to show their quality.
“Each match is a big challenge and each match is for us to prepare best as possible. The idea is to continue creating in our way and style,” he added.
“We need to be strong and also we can recover some players to be fit. I think we are closer to achieving everyone being ready to play, but we need some more time.
“For Saturday, we are in good spirits and our players are ready to play with big ambition to do something important.
Klopp and Emery both emphasise speed and verticality in attack, which is why Arsenal’s new front three of Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Pepe is another reason to believe things will click into place this season.
he’s better off trying to fight fire with fire and handing a first start of the season to club record signing Nicolas Pepe alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, uniting a front three that could be as formidable as Liverpool’s trident of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane?
There is also the small matter of how to structure a midfield where Emery is blessed with several tempting options. Granit Xhaka’s recovery means there are as many as six realistic options for at most three place in the middle of the park.
Certainly Ceballos seems the most likely starter in midfield after he proved his ability to nit defence and attack together last week, providing two assists against Burnley and making a string of crucial tackles. Emery also has shown time and time again that he trusts Guendouzi which could potentially mean Torreira, Willock and Xhaka battling for one spot.
It may well be that Torreira’s energy and physicality earns him the spot but few Arsenal fans would complain if Emery proved willing to trust a youngster in Willock who has consistently put in the hard yards early in the season.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Monreal; Guendouzi, Torreira, Ceballos; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang