Unai Emery remained coy when quizzed on whether Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will all start in Sunday’s North London derby. Unai Emery remained coy when quizzed on whether Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will all start in Sunday’s North London derby.
Emery’s Arsenal entertain fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and both sides will be looking to bounce back after disappointing results.
The Gunners saw their perfect start to the season brought to an abrupt halt by league leaders Liverpool last weekend as they slipped to a 3-1 loss at Anfield.
Spurs went down 1-0 at home to Newcastle and have four points to show from three games so far.
Arsenal forked out a club record £72million to snare Pepe from Lille in the summer and he was handed his first start at Anfield, having come on as a substitute in the first two Premier League games of the season. The Ivorian looked a constant threat and his pace in particular caused the Liverpool defence problems but he is still waiting for his first goal for the club.
Aubameyang has started all three Premier League games so far this term, scoring twice, and looks set to make the first XI for the visit of Spurs.
Lacazette has managed just one start this season, with the Frenchman scoring in the win over Burnley, but his involvement looks less certain as Emery has revealed he is still struggling with an ankle injury sustained in pre-season.
If all three are fully fit, the visit of Spurs represents an ideal opportunity to get the trio on the pitch from the off but Emery is playing his cards close to his chest. “Yes, but be calm,” he said. “My decision in each moment is thinking about how we are. For example with Lacazette he had a problem with his ankle. “This week is the best week of the last three weeks.
He’s getting better and feeling better with his ankle, it’s very positive. With Pepe, he came here later than the others but he is getting and feeling better in each match. Aubameyang is very important for us, he scores two goals in the first two matches, he had two or three good actions in Liverpool.”
There is always the argument that having one of his star attacking trio among the substitutes provides an option to change the game from the bench but Arsenal need a big performance against Spurs this weekend.
After missing out on the top four last season, the pressure is on Emery to deliver Champions League football and three points on Sunday would be a huge result against a key rival.
The Gunners may have six points from nine available but fell short in their first big test against Liverpool and now have an immediate chance to respond.
Starting with Lacazette, Pepe and Aubameyang on Sunday would be a real statement of intent from Emery and if they are all fit he should grasp that opportunity with both hands.