Nicolas Pepe could retain his place in a much-rotated side when Arsenal take on Molde in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Arsenal will hope to book their place in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages when they lock horns with Molde at the Aker Stadium on Thursday. And, Mikel Arteta has a few fresh issues to deal with ahead of his side’s latest fixture.
While Pablo Mari and Gabriel Martinelli continue their rehabilitation from long-term injuries, Calum Chambers is still some way off being ready for first-team action. Meanwhile, Thomas Partey, Sead Kolasinac and Mohamed Elneny remain unavailable. The fresh absentees for Arsenal, though, are Bukayo Saka and Willian, who sustained minor injuries this past weekend.
However, there is some good news, as David Luiz is in the travelling squad to Molde following the birth of his daughter at the weekend. Luiz, though, might be preserved till the weekend, with Shkodran Mustafi coming in to partner Rob Holding at the heart of the Arsenal defence.
🔋 Fully charged in Molde!
Go inside tonight’s training session 📺#UEL
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 25, 2020
Out wide, a new-look full-back pairing will see Cedric Soares and Ainsley Maitland-Niles coming in, with Runar Alex Runarsson set to get a rare chance in the Arsenal goal. Up ahead in midfield, the continued absence of Partey and Elneny means Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos will remain a part of the double pivot, with Joe Willock reprising the no. 10 role again.
Heading into the game, the big talking point has been Nicolas Pepe’s petulant act during the game against Leeds United on the weekend. However, during his pre-match press conference, Arteta imposed his faith in the Ivorian, suggesting that Pepe could start against Molde.
“We’ve all had disappointing reactions in our playing careers and obviously we were frustrated because when you play against a team like Leeds for a long time with 10 men, it makes a huge difference. Even more with the way they play.”
“He had a really good reaction, the way he apologised, the way he understood his responsibility and hopefully tomorrow we can see the player that we want to see, and have a good reaction to help his team. Pepe needs to embrace this challenge, and go for it. We have to provide the best possible and ideal scenarios for him to be able to do that.”
Despite having a game to forget on Sunday, Pepe should indeed start on the right side of the Arsenal attack, with Reiss Nelson coming in for the injured Willian on the left flank. Up top, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should make way for Eddie Nketiah, who leads the line against Molde.
Arsenal Predicted XI: Runarsson; Cedric, Mustafi, Holding, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Ceballos; Pepe, Willock, Nelson; Nketiah