UNAI EMERY will make late calls on the availability of Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe and Granit Xhaka for Saturday’s trip to Liverpool.
Two wins from two have given Arsenal a bit of confidence heading up to Anfield but the coach is still waiting to see how he can align his players.
Xhaka missed the 2-1 win over Burnley last weekend with Ozil yet to feature following a frightening gang attack on the German and teammate Sead Kolasinac.
In addition, new record signing Pepe is a potential call-up to the starting line-up for the first time after two appearances off the bench.
Speaking on Thursday about the Ivorian winger, Emery told reporters: “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.”
If Pepe makes his full debut, he can expect to form a three-man frontline alongside Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That would mean youngster Reiss Nelson dropping to the bench, along with Joe Willock if Xhaka can start.
On Arsenal’s late fitness tests, Emery noted: “Tomorrow is the last training and we are going to decide tomorrow. 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.”
Trips to Liverpool have rarely featured among the Gunners’ favourites in recent years, the hosts unbeaten in this clash since 2012.
Latest Football News
An alternative setup for Emery, if Xhaka and Co aren’t fit, would be to start Kolasinac and play five at the back to counter Liverpool’s dangerous strikeforce.
Even if fit, it is unlikely Ozil will start given his lack of action compared to his colleagues.
Emery said of the playmaker: “I think he needs to be fit and also he is training as normal with the team.
“I think this is the first way to achieve that fitness. After that, to help us with his capacity.”
This post written by Marc Mayo originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.