Unai Emery says he’s pleased to have a selection dilemma for Saturday’s opening home game of the season against Burnley as the majority of his squad close in on full fitness.
The Spaniard opted to start four of his new signings on the bench for the 1-0 win over Newcastle, chose not to risk Alex Lacazette – who had been nursing an ankle knock – while Sead Kolasinac and Mesut Ozil didn’t make the trip north due to an ongoing threat to their security.
While the German is a doubt with illness and Granit Xhaka is struggling with a knock, the boss still needs to decide whether to stick with teenagers Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson and if he should keep faith with the same back four that kept a clean sheet at St James’ Park.
“Each player is different and really after Newcastle this week the players have been working well,” he told his pre-game press conference.
“Today was the same. We can decide and choose different options for each position in the squad. We need to be competitive and we need different options to decide who is better for each match.
“If I have some doubt it’s good because it’s positive and after we are going to decide and it can depend on training on Friday. But the new players, the players who were with us last year and the youth players are all with us, and we can achieve our way each match with confidence in them.”
Emery is also aware that the home crowd is eager to see club-record signing Nicolas Pepe make his Emirates bow. After limited pre-season training, the Ivorian stretched his legs for 19 minutes at Newcastle but sounds like he’s ready to feature for longer.
“I am going to decide on Friday because now is a small difference for my decision about the player,” said Emery.
“It depends how they will be tomorrow in the training. But Pepe is training with us, is improving with us, is knowing us, our idea, our style, is able to understand his team-mates better.
“Physically also, getting better. He’s more close to helping us than he was at the beginning, after giving us an impact during the match.”
Arsenal do still have a number of players sidelined, including Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Dinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith Rowe and new boy Keiran Tierney.