Liege Preview: Pep Talk & Walk the Walk

So much of modern football is a snap judgement. During Monday night’s game, Martin Tyler waffled on about how ludicrous it was that Nicolas Pepe was being written off after just six games. He then proceeded to do precisely that.

At ยฃ72m, Pepe was expected to hit the ground running. He hasn’t and no truck seemingly held with the argument that it’s a new league, language and culture for him to pick up. Lord knows what these critics would have made of Dennis Bergkamp or Thierry Henry’s early days at the club.

Unai Emery is wiser than they, it seems. “I am sure Pepe is an amazing player, I am sure he is going to have a big career here,” he told the media yesterday.

You can take that one of two ways. A nervous “I’m sure there’s a good player in there somewhere” or he’s stating with certainty that Pepe is an outstanding player. Surely, we’re all erring into the latter camp?

As Emery pointed out, the pressure comes from playing for The Arsenal and the expectations that brings. It isn’t from a false construct of the transfer fee; they are just transient numbers. It’s about delivering for The Arsenal every time you pull on the red and white because you play for The Arsenal.

As Emery noted, this is what happens when you play for a big club.

Patience is a virtue long gone from football as we know. The balance is between that and indulgence. Mesut Ozil’s treatment, offensive to some, is indulgence when he is selected for the first team. If we’re judging by transfer fees, well, that’s not a place some people want to go.

The question for tonight is whether the issue of Pepe’s confidence demands a solution which includes playing tonight?

Standard Fare

That’s one of a number of decisions Unai Emery has. Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin are set to start which ought to snuff out the threat posed by Shkodran Mustafi playing alongside the Englishman.

I think this and the Bournemouth game are the last times before the great centre-back shake-up happens. It feels like there is genuine competition for one of the central defensive slots in the Premier League XI and that for the past decade is something of a rarity.

A new-look defence, the Holy Trinity. We’ll find out if they are our saviours or if it is hope born of desperation over the coming weeks.

That isn’t the only decision for Emery to make. What, for example, to do with Ainsley Maitland-Niles? Sit on the bench as a second-half replacement for Bellerin or give him a match in central midfield, the role he craves? At some point, that decision must be made.

Morally, it feels like there is a debt owed to the youngster for filling in when needed. Of course, it is a job and he fulfilled his employer’s requirements. Who knows whether he would be anywhere the first-team otherwise. And with Emery, there is no point in trying to second guess that.

However, the feeling is that the Spaniard isn’t entirely messing around with this competition this season. After last season, maybe he feels like he owes us one?

Heh. Sentiment in football, eh? No place for it, apparently.

Captain Granit is going to stumble and kick his way through another game. In fairness, the European matches suit him. There’s more time on the ball than in the Premier League and it is less physical. He looks a half-decent player on these occasions. Maybe he can be our European leader instead?

Striking a Tone

Torreira partnering him might in some way compensate for previous misdeeds on Emery’s part but I’m not expecting anything other than the Uruguayan being played out of position.

Is this the night where youth takes over? Not entirely. Surely Ozil will be selected for a home Europa League tie? The litany of excuses for not playing him is never-ending. However, it was reassuring to hear Emery state his exclusion on Monday was for tactical reasons. In other words, Ozil lacks the qualities to play in a side set to defend away from home.

At ยฃ350k per week, he truly is a luxury player. In a team which can ill-afford them.

Reiss Nelson on one side of the pitch, Pepe on the other; I’d hazard a guess that Aubameyang will start once again but were Martinelli’s two goals against Forest enough to get him the lead striker role? I’d hope so; if not the decision to send Nketiah on loan looks foolhardy. A case of putting the player in the shop window rather than any sense of development.

Which leaves the line-up:

Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney; Xhaka, Torreira; Pepe, Ozil, Nelson; Martinelli

Of course, that’s not what it will be. But it’s the Europa League, so who knows? Crazy days.

Enjoy the match wherever you’re watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

56 thoughts on “Liege Preview: Pep Talk & Walk the Walk

  1. John Ojong says:

    Halfway Boooom๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

  2. andy1886 says:

    Surely Emi will play, not Leno?

    Martinez; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Tierney; AMN, Willock, Ozil; Pepe, Nelson, Martinelli.

    Should be good enough.

  3. Kadeet says:

    Martinez was with Emery at the press conference so, he starts instead of Leno.

  4. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Excellent news as the lad needs game time.

  5. Welsh corgi says:

    Ozils not in the squad๐Ÿค”.

  6. John Obong says:

    Ozil does not even fit the “tactics” for a farmer’s league too. That some 350k down the drain weekly. I would believe the tactics Emery is sounding off is for Rugby…..

  7. Ferkov says:

    Hate to hark back to Spuds result, ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚, but there is something seriously wrong with Ozil Emery Arsenal axis, but because of our squad depth , we don’t really care,, in the main, that he’s not in the squad. If there is a feeling that he isn’t right , then we can just drop him, despite his wages hurting us.

  8. Bufallo says:

    Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin (c), Mustafi, Holding, Tierney, Willock, Torreira, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles, Martinelli, Nelson

    Subs: Leno, Chambers, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Aubameyang, Pepe

    Interesting line up. Good for M-N not at RB. Martinelli playing. Our captain not. Defence looks promising. Hope we are sensational !

  9. Ferkov says:

    Excited to see what this team can produce.

  10. Bufallo says:

    C looks like rw
    Maybe this ozil thing is a masterstroke by emery ?! If ozil has got any will to
    play and get back to anything like his best he will put up a big fight. If not, we offload 300 plus off the wage bill…..if of course he plays ball and goes.

  11. C says:


    Its amazing, how Torriera just seems to balance our midfield in his natural position.

  12. Noon Gunner says:

    Wow!! That was special!! Tierney whipped across for a stunning Martinelli header!

  13. C says:

    That is a SUPERB ball from Tierney and an absolute BRILLIANT header by Gabriel.

  14. Noon Gunner says:

    O M G!!!!!!

    This attack is just blistering!!

  15. Bufallo says:

    omg we have a new super kid hopefully !!
    what a finish

  16. Noon Gunner says:

    Their 9ft tall goalie is too small to cover what Martinelli’s sending him.

  17. C says:

    Then he shows close control and cool head and grabs his brace!!!!!! Gabriel is having a flying start and you see why he was picked in Brasil’s final 25 man squad for this past summer’s Copa America.

  18. Bufallo says:

    opposition manage reaching for the chewing tobacco…it’s a good sign

  19. Noon Gunner says:

    This is turning lovely…!!!!

    All down the left. Nelson / Tierney – quite the combo, with Martinelli and Willock to play off.

  20. C says:

    Willock gets his goal and Emery has this squad absolutely flying.

    Ceballos and Willock are given the freedom to roam and press in midfield becauss they know they have Torriera behind them who is mobile, has desire and reads the game.

  21. Noon Gunner says:

    Thank goodness we’ve got a strong bench…

  22. andy1886 says:

    Arsenal fans singing, “Are you Tottenham in disguise?”

  23. Noon Gunner says:

    That first 20 minutes is going to be a hard act to follow. How do ST Liege make a game of this now?

  24. Dukey says:

    I’ll get excited if I see martin elli doing this in the league.

  25. andy1886 says:

    Seven would be nice….just like back in ’93.

  26. consolsbob says:

    Tierney looks like the best young Arsenal left back since Bob McNab…err…

  27. Noon Gunner says:


    Yes – seems to have an old head on his young shoulders. Bob McNab on the other hand…

  28. Noon Gunner says:

    Auba brought on to show St Liege we’re serious. By my calculations, if Auba is on the field, Auba scores.

  29. Bufallo says:

    love auba trying to tee him up for the hat trick

  30. Noon Gunner says:

    Dani C has had a joyous game tonight.

    And how is it suddenly that we have three exciting options on the left of attack, in Martinelli, Nelson and Saka? Like we’ve been waiting for a No.9 bus for ages and suddenly three arrive at once.

  31. Bufallo says:

    Well that was full of positives. Let’s see how we get on in the PL.
    What a match from the young Brazilian
    Tierney looks the business

  32. Noon Gunner says:


    Yeah – great training game and as you say, many positives.

    The Hector-Ainsley dance routine didn’t click, with Hector rusty and Ainsley understandably out of key, but Pepe will come good soon enough. And meanwhile we just send everything down our Electric Left.

  33. C says:

    Torriera, very little said but allows everybody else to play their role by him being and doing the job at the DM.

  34. Ras says:

    A good all around performance. There were 2 cut aways of AMN. The first when being substituted and the 2nd sitting on the bench next to Willock. He didnโ€™t look to happy.

    The youthful exuberance of Martinelli, Willock and Nelson is a joy to behold. The three were like a pack of wild dogs. All over the pitch.

    I think the defense takes care of itself minus Mustafi. Chambers ? Luiz ? Sokratis ? ..

    I sadly see no way back for Ozil.

  35. freddo says:

    Torriera, very little said but allows everybody else to play their role by him being and doing the job at the DM.

    Absolutely. I thought the Terrier was fantastic. Cleaning up, always available, moving the ball forward, setting a tempo. You could see he and Ceballos loved pushing the ball back and forward while looking for options.

  36. freddo says:

    Ras – ANM always looks pretty dour.

  37. jonnygunner says:

    Noon Gunner:

    Yeah โ€“ great training game and as you say, many positives.

    The Hector-Ainsley dance routine didnโ€™t click, with Hector rusty and Ainsley understandably out of key, but Pepe will come good soon enough. And meanwhile we just send everything down our Electric Left.

    Agreed-AM Niles looked the weak link tonight.
    Tierny looks the real deal…..Bill will poo poo that-but he is.
    Martinelli is electric.Ceballos looks the part and seems to be a big team player-I think he likes our club.
    Bellerin…mainly tidy,but a little rusty….Chamhers(at the moment)offers more

  38. Ferkov says:

    Ainsley doesn’t look a happy bunny. The glimpses of aggressive play he’s shown over past year let us know what he’s capable of. He showed us none tonight, whilst those around flourished.
    Hector looks like he needs a few more practice matches. Tierney looks buzzing.

    No ones commented on the wierd high five Emery gave Xhaka after the first goal. Wtf was that? Walked five yards ,leant over the coaches bench ,big cheesy grin. Love child conspiracy? YWs photos? Hopefully ” enjoy watching your new first team “… ” I’ll stick Auba and Pepa on later”

  39. C says:


    Exactly and the thing about Torriera is that its actually better when his name isn’t noticed because it means he is doing his job but allows others to flourish.

    Nit comparing them AT ALL but people and Gooners everywhere talk about Vieira for being a brillianr DM but it was Gilberto ‘The Silent Wall’ Silva who was the brilliant DM that allowed Vieira to boss the midfield. I think and have thought Torriera year 2 could have the same sort of impact on this XI.

  40. Bill says:

    Hard to read a lot of long term significance in a game like this but itโ€™s fun to watch. Reminiscent of the Carling cup games from the project youth early Emirates era. A great game from the team makes everyone look better. A rising tide raises all ships. Tierney looked really good and I think he is going to be an upgrade at LB. Gabriel with a couple of great finishes.

  41. C says:

    Don’t forget before Robertson went to Liverpool Tierney was BY FAR the best LB and even now Tierney is talked about as the better of the 2 LB’s. More than that, the managers and Robertson himself says he is a better player and the Celtic manager says Tieney reminds hom of van Dijk in his reading and defensive duties as well as his calm and demeanor.

  42. Mulerise1 says:

    We only see what we want to see,they say…….but for d life of me,how could a professional football coach fail to notice this;
    1-d supposedly second string is playing effective football because of d mobility in d middle which have a calming effect on our defense and an electrifying effect on our attack.
    2-if ozil doesnt fit this system,how does Xhaka?why keep adding a singular element that distrupts our mobility and speed game after game?a la’ xhaka?
    3-that torreira,gwen,ceballos,and surprise willock should be ones fighting for d 3 spaces for workers that are warriors-‘cos methinks mid-field is d battleground where matches are won or lost-certainly NOT xhaka?

  43. Dukey says:

    Summed up nicely before. This was a training game. Necklace bender used to look very good in these games.

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