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Unai Emery hints at Nicolas Pepe start for Arsenal-Liverpool tie

Nicolas Pepe
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Unai Emery hinted that he could hand Nicolas Pepe his first Arsenal start ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Liverpool in the Premier League.

Following his club-record €80m arrival from Lille OSC this summer, Pepe has made just two cameos in Arsenal’s opening games of the new league campaign.

Although Emery explained earlier this week that the 24-year-old is yet to reach full-fitness due to a lack of pre-season preparation. Therefore, the Spaniard opted to play it safe with his summer signing.

But it appears the Gunners boss may be about to change his stance ahead of a crucial visit to Liverpool this weekend.

The last time the two sides met was last December at Anfield, where the Reds thrashed Arsenal 5-1 in humiliating fashion. So, it’s only natural Emery is thinking of pulling out all his big guns on Saturday.

“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,” said Emery on Arsenal.com.

“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.”

It’s not all good news for Arsenal fans, however, as Mesut Ozil (illness) and Granit Xhaka (leg problem) are doubts for the trip to Anfield.

“Tomorrow is the last training and we are going to decide tomorrow,” Emery said on Ozil and Xhaka’s availability.

“Today they trained, but really, I need tomorrow to have the last training, to be really sure how we can be better there. I know some players need to be fit and to improve 100 per cent to be in their best fitness.

“But tomorrow is the day. Really I am positive with some players for Saturday but I don’t want to decide today or to say to you today how we are because tomorrow can change.”

The Liverpool and Arsenal match will start at 18:30 (CET).

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 12: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal and Mesut Ozil of Arsenal.