Unai Emery aims to end Arsenal’s Anfield hoodoo when he takes his team to face Liverpool with a strong starting lineup in mind.
Arsenal have not won at Anfield in their last six visits and Unai Emery will be out to make amends to the record when his team takes on Liverpool on Saturday. The Arsenal manager has a full squad at his disposal barring those already out injured before the season began, namely Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and new signing Kieran Tierney.
Bernd Leno is a sure starter between the posts. Ainsley Maitland-Niles produced another excellent performance against Burnley and has done no harm to his chances of continuing as the right-back. David Luiz and Sokratis are set to continue their budding partnership at the heart of the Arsenal defence, with Calum Chambers an option for Emery from the bench.
The decision on the left-back slot could be tricky for Emery to make. While Nacho Monreal has operated expertly in the last two games, Emery might drop him for Sead Kolasinac if the manager takes a more offensive approach to Anfield. Based on the form it is Monreal’s name that is expected in the starting lineup, but a late decision is likely to be made by Emery.
There were a few midfield absentees when Arsenal beat Burnley last weekend, with Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil among those who sat out. The pair was back to full training this week, although it remains to be seen if they are in Emery’s plans for their trip to Anfield. Emery does have plenty of options available if he decides to not play the duo, with Lucas Torreira among those pushing for a start.
The midfielder arrived late after playing for Uruguay in the Copa America, but it has been nearly three weeks since then and he is likely ready to start games. Arsenal played the first two matches without a recognised defensive midfielder and Torreira’s return must be a pushing matter for Emery to consider. Torreira’s inclusion means Xhaka is only likely to make the bench at best.
Ozil’s return is undoubtedly a boost from an attacking perspective, but Emery has plenty of options and a different approach that will likely keep the German on the bench against Liverpool. Dani Ceballos could be the man to start in Ozil’s stead following his man of the match performance against Burnley.
But, the player everyone has been looking forward to is Arsenal’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe. The Ivorian might get his first start for Arsenal against Liverpool after playing cameo roles in the first two games.
Emery was quizzed over Pepe’s inclusion in the starting lineup at his pre-game conference. The manager responded and said, “The most important thing is to help him and his family to feel comfortable here,”
“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.”
Despite Ozil’s return, Emery is likely to stick with a mobile front three, meaning Pepe is set to make his full debut for Arsenal against Liverpool. Last weekend’s scorers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are expected to start upfront. Lacazette should lead the line for the visitors, with Aubameyang and Pepe being the two wide men.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Monreal; Guendouzi, Torreira, Ceballos; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang