On Pepe, Ceballos & Liverpool

Liverpool is in everyone’s line of sight with the ‘first big test’ of the season tomorrow night. That’s the ‘first big test’ until you pass it; then Tottenham becomes the ‘first big test’.

The fit and healthy players are thinking about boarding the train to Lime Street. Granit Xhaka is back among them while ‘sickly’ Mesut is just Mesut; he’s over the ‘sickly’ and back in full training. It will be interesting to see if he makes the trip for other reasons, however.

Unai isn’t, however, committing their places just yet. “We are going to decide tomorrow,” he said yesterday meaning he/they decide today, just to add that extra level of confusion in your mind. “But tomorrow is the day,” he added just to confuse himself.

“Really I am positive,” he continued but told something we already knew. Emery then threw everyone by claiming it was “with some players for Saturday.” Who? Do tell, do tell. For chrissakes, tell; these people have got this far in the post and they aren’t getting those minutes back!

“But I don’t want to decide today or to say to you today how we are because tomorrow can change,” just to sap the will to live further.

Essentially, it’s down to Nicolas Pepe and Granit Xhaka. If Ozil travels, it will be as a sub I should imagine. Emery’s previous caution with players fitness has been such that a place in the starting XI doesn’t seem credible.

This is, however, football; expediency is everything. Does he believe Ozil’s presence serves the team better than Ceballos? I doubt it; the Spaniard was outstanding against Burnley and dropping him now makes no sense.

When did team selection ever make sense?

Maybe Ready

In any case, I assume Joe Willock is the one to give way. Guendouzi, Ceballos and Xhaka, or Lucas Torreira; I made clear my choice for the defensive midfield role before yesterday’s lethargy gave way to a half-arsed effort not worth publishing.

Emery will go with Xhaka, I think but possibly also the Uruguayan as he replicates the 4-2-3-1 approach at Newcastle. That puts a different slant on things; Aubameyang on the wing, Lacazette in the middle but who on the other wide midfield role?

Reiss Nelson hasn’t pulled up any trees yet but three games into his senior Arsenal career, I think he can be pleased with his progress. He’s been consistent which is the main things. Unlucky in front of goal as well but there’s a £72m toy waiting to be played with.

It’s funny but that phrase read a lot better as I typed it than it does in this proofreading phase. As if there’s any proofreading on this site…

Pepe, Emery declared, is “maybe ready” to play more minutes, without any hint of indecision or “whoops, I’ve given the game away” about his statement.

“In the first match, he played 15 minutes in Newcastle, then he played 45 minutes against Burnley,” the Spaniard said. He’s left you to extrapolate that one; it’s not straight-line progression, however. Thirty minutes more is just a weird first-half substitute or a serious injury, which frankly we never want to see.

So, it’s a case of a place in the starting line-up and Reiss drops to the bench. As if to emphasise the point, Pepe’s “individual performances are progressively getting better,” according to Emery.

It’s quite an attacking line-up with the danger of a gap developing between the midfield and forwards.

Oh, Dani Boy

For that reason, I think Ceballos fits the XI better than Ozil. He is more involved in the game and at Anfield, if we’re to give ourselves a good chance of avoiding yet another mauling, we need to press all over the pitch.

Another mauling? Unai is keen to avoid that, you get the feeling. As he said, we aren’t the only ones to come away from Anfield with a good gubbing on a regular basis. However, when you look at the company we keep in that record, is it really where we want to be?

My concern is that Unai knackered himself out offering positive thoughts for tomorrow:

“We need to take our best performance and to go there with a good feeling and also thinking we can achieve that performance individually and collectively to be strong and to have our chances.”

Did he take a breath in there at all? That can’t be good for his health and the treatment room is packed enough as it is.

Ultimately, we must do better in these matches if we are to progress on last season’s fifth-place. Even winning won’t put us back into the title race or if it does, it’s just for a short while.

Then again, we’ve made a habit of winning the league by jumping from fourth, fifth or sixth the season before; why should this be any different?

Two games in and I’m talking up our title chances. John W Henry might be right in wondering what the hell I’m smoking.

It’s nice to enter the game with a bit of a bounce in our stride. Win and we go top; draw and we still get a boost to our self-belief.

862 words and I haven’t mentioned 1989; I’ll do better in the pre-match preview.

’til Tomorrow.

26 thoughts on “On Pepe, Ceballos & Liverpool

  1. JersiBennyman says:

    That a nice one, but I wont mind seeing Ozil as CAM, with Ceballos as Box-to-Box… with LT harrying behind him… Front foot and pressing, through Ozil if need be

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  2. andy1886 says:

    Better than half-arsed today YW, good stuff!

    If Pepe does start it’s pretty certain that he isn’t going to last the ninety minutes so Nelson will get some game time at some point. Ozil for Ceballos makes no sense as you say so the Spaniard is a shoe-in for me. Xhaka? very much a ‘meh’ player for me but will probably get the nod for his experience rather than any other specific attribute that he might bring. Defence remains the same.

    Touching on ’89 the one difference is that Emery will when pressed for choice will probably take the safe option (Xhaka, 4-2-3-1) whereas dear old Gorgeous George surprised everyone at Anfield that year by fielding DO’L as a sweeper and keeping it tight in the first half. While a win isn’t impossible it’ll probably take some sort of tactical master stroke to do it and I’m not convinced that Emery is that type of coach (even if he is more of a tactician than AW).

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  3. andy1886 says:

    I’m not convinced that a pressing game is wise against a Klopp team, we’re much better suited to play on the counter where they might be vulnerable. The caveat to that is if we do play that way then we need to cut out some of the fannying around at the back and play some longer balls out to the channels and secondly Xhaka kills the quick break so he can’t make the team.

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  4. AlanG says:

    Emery has said he may use 5 at the back in some of the tougher away games. Perhaps, 3 centre backs with Monreal on the left side and kolasinac coming in at wing back, may be in his thoughts. I think personally a back four with 2 midfield pivots is a better option as Liverpool look to exploit that area as they are so mobile. One thing for sure, the phrase that they have to be at boiling point from the get go is so apt – they’ve been blown away so often in the first half. They have to keep in the game until the hour mark. Ozil has no part to play in this game – Ceballos can do that role and mikitaryan / Willock from the bench. WTF has happened to Mikitaryan? He should be very relevant in that advanced central midfield role because he’s not a winger

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  5. C says:

    andy1886,

    You talk about balls into the channels (o grow up already!), I do think that’s where Luiz can be superb for us. Luiz is a master at playing the balls over the top or in the channels and with the way that the Liverpool FB’s push forward, I think our front 3 would have chances.

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  6. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Ceballos/Ozil/Torriera as Ceballos likes to boss the midfield similiar to Santi linking things but still doing the dirty work and then letting Ozil feed that front 3.

    I’m actually optimistic about the match and them not having Allison is massive.

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  7. C says:

    Surprise you didn’t mention the fact that Emery basically topd Mustafi and Elneny to find a new club.

    Also saw some reports of Nacho possibly heading to Spain.

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  8. Mulerise1 says:

    JersiBennyman,

    Methinks that kinda line-up is tailor-made for shefield united,brighton and their likes,unless we want to set ourselves up for a hiding.we need 6 hard workers in mid/attack.i will go with our P.A.L(which is enough to make any set of defenders honest and its not as if liv are at their defensive best yet).
    I think it was on another arsenal blog i read someone said,let me paraphrase”…..everybody is going on about liv deadly front three and that our make-shift defence may not be ready for such a stern test,TRUTH.buy they too are not ready for the salvo of bullets coming outta our smoking P.A.L,TRUTH………”
    If Emery start that front 3,then the onus is on him to start 3 energetic,mobile,and dynamic midfielders(cellabos,torreira and Gwen/Willock).this is not a knock on xhaka who has his own attributes,but against a jugenpress,he will be targeted,thus a wink link.
    The prsence of David Luiz provides those long cross field passes that will set up well with our our attack.
    We are arsenal,so we should go to liverpool with confidence of an equal,when you consider both teams first eleven,not much diffrence in quality.this is not being naive,but a recogntion of our own strength.
    I would rather a 4-3,3-2 loss than another 5-1 bashing.fortune favours the brave,i say let’s have at ’em.come on ye Gunners!

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  9. kenyan gunner says:

    We are beginningto look like pool. Auba to Salah. Pepe to Mane. Lacazette to Firmino! But what we still lack is a beast like Van Dijk. Holding in a year or two? Maybe.

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  10. YW says:

    C

    I covered that a while ago re Elneny and Mustafi. Thing is, I’ve got to leave something for next week – this weekend is all about the bindippers.

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  11. Mulerise1 says:

    Klop is playing mind games,saying he is seeing two changes xhaka n pepe to our line-up.the latter would give him headache of cos(how do you neutralize d threats of Auba,Laca n Pep?) and the latter is a hope i think,xhaka will play many games this season,but his skillset is not really needed against the mugwashers.

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  12. YW says:

    Well, he neutralised us just fine last season. Sorry, neutered is the word I was looking for.

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  13. Saa says:

    Cautiously optimistic about tomorrow… Really would have preferred it to be at home though… Might be a bit too early in the season to go for it full throttle and end up with a spanking as some alluded to on this post… Wrighty feels we can come away with a 2-2… Hmmm

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  14. Michael says:

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s game for the 1st time in ages, I can see 4 or 5 goals, but who gets them is debatable…bring it on.

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  15. Dukey says:

    Was looking forward to a weekend of cricket as well! Who days cricket is boring? A five day game ending in three eh!

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  16. G4E says:

    50/50….

    Between, getting a decent result….Not necessarily winning. Or, we are due for another surprising/not surprising capitulation.

    Exciting Times.

    A loss of 1/0 would still be a decent result, at least we save some of our confidence. A draw of any kind, is a preferred result. A win for us is Unlikely surprise/surprise.

    I hope we can get past this game intact.

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  17. C says:

    Team I’d like to see

    Leno
    Maitland-Niles—Sokaritis—Luiz—-Nacho
    Torriera—Ceballos
    Pepe—-Ozil—–Aubameyang
    Lacazette

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  18. C says:

    YW,

    Yup. Wonder if Emery has asked to wait post-Liverpool or if the transfer has been in thr works and was only delayed by the situation with Sead.

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