Unai Emery has hinted that Nicolas Pepe is in line for a start at Anfield as he says the record signing is improving physically since signing for the club.

He has made two substitute appearances, coming on at half-time during last weekend’s 2-1 win over Burnley.

Asked about the Ivorian at his press conference today, there was a suggestion that he is ready for ‘more minutes’, with the Spaniard saying, ” The most important thing is, like a person, to help him and his family to feel comfortable here.

“Now he is three weeks into working here with us. He didn’t do the pre-season here but he’s progressively feeling better. For example, in the first match, he played 15 minutes in Newcastle, then he played 45 minutes against Burnley.

“I think his individual performances are progressively getting better. For Saturday, he is maybe ready to have more minutes.

“I am going to decide tomorrow, but really his progress has been positive and has been good for the team and for him.

“The most important piece of the adaptation is to help him to feel easy and be comfortable with us.”

The question is does he mean ‘more minutes’ overall, or more minutes than last week? If it’s the latter, then he could well be in line for a start.

We suspect he might just hold him back in reserve though, as a fantastic weapon to throw on if we need him to change the trajectory of the game.

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lordMartynz
lordMartynz

For the first time in years we are now having a good headache… I am here wondering who to play in Midfield, I hope Torreira get the nod over Xhaka against Liverpool..

Anonymarse
Anonymarse

We could use that energy.

VAR will solve the problem
VAR will solve the problem

I am ok with Torreira in the midfield instead of Matteo just to keep Firminho in check. Definetely not Xhaka…please no Xhaka! We need players that are quick and mobile against their midfield. I think playing Xhaka may upset the balance.
Emery should just go with the same team. I would rather lose playing adventurous than lose being too slow and ponderous!

PeteyB
PeteyB

I’d have me a bit of Torreira too if he’s up to speed. As others have said David Luiz provides a bit of what we’d miss in terms of long passing/spreading play. I’m also excited to see how Torreira and Ceballos fit together.

Chamackhungpark
Chamackhungpark

Willock or Guendouzi as the third? I’d go Matteo

shokim
shokim

Emery’s such a big tease. But then again, it’s prudent holding his cards close to his chest.

Jack
Jack

We want the quality and the players to give a big performance and big personality over 90 minoot.

Paul Roberts
Paul Roberts

I take that as he’s starting! COYG and my fpl team! 😂

Kaleja
Kaleja

Man. I am anxious, the front three of Auba, Laca and Pepe, So dreamy I didn’t see that coming in Million years, Remember the time when Giroud , Walcott and Iwobi, where leading the line. How Time have changed.

Red-Wing
Red-Wing

Charlie Nicholas has summed up my thoughts/hopes for our line-up against Liverpool perfectly for Sky Sports:

“I think Arsenal should play a back four with two protectors in front. I don’t want Granit Xhaka in the team, I would prefer Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. They would give Arsenal energy and defensive qualities. Then I would want Alexandre Lacazette through the middle and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe to provide pace on the counter and make things happen, with Dani Ceballos just behind them.

I’d have that line-up to give Arsenal a back six and then a front four that could cause Liverpool problems on the counter-attack.”

NairoGunner89
NairoGunner89

On paper, that is a strong line-up. We have the quality, maybe we just lack a bit of self belief in this fixture. I hope the team finds some swagger by Saturday. COYG!

Thierry Bergkamp
Thierry Bergkamp

That’s the lineup I want to see. Obviously Xhaka as the new club captain, means he’ll be starting.

HansRott
HansRott

At £72 million you’d be hard-pressed not to want him playing more minutes.

But that’s not the point for most fans. We’ve already had glimpses of what he can do and we just want to see more. We know it’s going to take a few games like it did for Aubameyang (one in five, two in seven) … but we think we’ve got a real gem here. We almost don’t care if he’s 100% ready … 80% will do just fine.

All he has to do is roughly meet our modest expectations.

With him and Ceballos on the pitch at the same time … the majority of Liverpool supporters might well be excused for shaking their heads in disbelief come match day.

Cautious. Quiet. Optimistic.

Goonereality
Goonereality

Pretty sure he’ll play against Liverpool at some point, possibly at half time if he doesn’t start. Liverpool are going for their 12th straight Premiership win and we’re likely to be under pressure from the whistle, so he’ll be needed.

Abi
Abi

It’s a no brainer to not start Xhaka. He is slow, prone to mistakes and commit stupid fouls. Torreira, Guendouzi & Ceballos will rule the midfield and provide good defensive cover for the defense. Long ball from Luiz to the trio of A…L…P will just do it. I think we can pull a win at Anfield.

sAMa
sAMa

Most people prefer Guendouzi over Xhaka, I would like to ask: Since when has Guendouzi’s defensive abilities improved so much that he’s even preferred over Xhaka? I know Xhaka has concentration problems and is poor defensively but he’s also a good passer of the ball. He dictates play with his incisive passes, no wonder when Xhaka plays well we win. Before now when we didn’t have a midfielder who can carry the ball with his feet(pre-Ceballos era) to the opponents half Xhaka bypassed midfield with his passes while Guendouzi just passes the ball around like Elneny. Don’t get me wrong I also get frustrated by Xhaka sometimes but I think he’s still one of the most experienced midfielders we have and I’ll still play him on Saturday if I were Emery since we don’t have a better option CM.

alex lacapeppe
alex lacapeppe

Its the lack of mobility more than anything. A game against pool is going to be fast-paced end to end action. Xhaka is way too slow and clumsy to keep up with a game like this.

Having said that, and i will contradict myself, I fancy ozil at LW for this game.

NairoGunner89
NairoGunner89

The thing is we have been blessed to have some fantastic midfielders at Arsenal. We have also had some terrible ones. We know what good looks like, we know what bad looks like. Xhaka is more often than not, neither of the two. Maybe that is why he divides opinion so much, people just don’t know what to make of him.

Guendouzi may not float your boat, but the kid has some flair about him. It is subtle but it is there, and he keeps things ticking. Does his job. He may make a mistake or two but he is young. In any other club he would be learning from someone older, more experienced and better at that role. Xhaka ought to be that person, but anytime Guendouzi starts ahead of xhaka, you don’t really miss xhaka.

All this to say, I do not dislike xhaka but I do not understand what makes his game. All those things you said he offers, we have other players who offer them as well (minus that thunderous shot of his – which he rarely uses) and at less of a cost(mistakes). I feel like a lot is riding on this season for Xhaka.

sAMa
sAMa

Yeah, you can keep the ball ticking all day but if you don’t move it to your attackers and create opportunities for them to score how do you intend to win a match? You will be stale while your opponents are making progress.

Dave M
Dave M

Xhaka’s weaknesses are very worrying against a combatative, high tempo liverpool midfield and fast counterattacking forwards. His lower mobility and overcommitment when defending open holes behind him Liverpool love to exploit and his propensity to turn it over in costly places is bread and butter to Firmino, Salah and Sane. He’s a brilliant passer and great at ball retention (except the aforesaid costly turnovers that he can’t seem to eliminate), but I don’t think we necessarily need to control possession and the ball – in fact I think here being disciplined and structured and then dangerous on the break, counter-attacking is where we can exploit liverpool, especially because their full-backs love bombing forward. We need two disciplined and controlled holding midfielders to stop Liverpool exploiting space between the defenders and midfield. Guendouzi and Willock having being showing up brilliantly so far. Nonetheless, Torreira could do a job two – I’d have 2 of those three and no Xhaka here for sure. And definitely Pepa-Laca-Auba up front!!

sAMa
sAMa

In a situation when Mane or Salah looses the ball in our half and you have either of Aubamayang or Pepe on the wings calling for that long range pass, tell me who would you rather have, Guendouzi or Xhaka? Would you prefer someone who has to run with the ball with his feet to them giving Liverpool enough time to recover their defensive shape or you need someone to bypass it immediately with a long range pass?

Dave M
Dave M

Ceballos, that’s his role here. Control the tempo of the game. Generally the first guy that forces a turn over has less space to make an outlet pass and needs to find a more open teammate – Ceballos hopefully, both Willock and Ceballos have the better speed and drive to then support that break too.

Dave M
Dave M

And to add, Xhaka means we play a slower tempo that tries to control possession anyway, which in itself doesn’t pertain to counterattacking football.

Chiza
Chiza

Yeah i know I’m going off topic and I’m sorry about this.. But i have a question to ask…. Since arsenal has won the title at Old Trafford,Anfield and white hart lane… has any opposition team won the title at highbury or emirates? ..just curious

Der32
Der32

Giving RVP and Man United that badge of honor after securing the PL title still hurts though.

EMMANUEL AKAKA
EMMANUEL AKAKA

Now that we know what Unai meant by ‘protagonist’, Xhaka must surely watch his back and xhak-up his performance. Otherwise, something tells me that Emery may soon chat him up to be a ‘protagonist’ elsewhere!

Santori
Santori

Looking good Pepe.

Once we get better fluency up top, we will be very very dangerous. At the moment we are still not all guns firing which is understandable.

Martin L. E.
Martin L. E.

I think he’ll be starting.
We need our best players starting this match.
Maybe if he’s not 100%, take him off after 60-70 minutes.
But he can have more impact in 60-70 minutes than he can being subbed on for 30-45 minutes….just because, you know, its more minutes!