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Unai Emery Hints Nicolas Pepe Could Make Full Arsenal Debut Against Liverpool

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 22, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Burnley FC at Emirates Stadium on August 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe could make his full debut for the club against Liverpool after Unai Emery said his record signing looks "maybe ready to have more minutes" on Saturday.

The Gunners travel to Anfield level on points with fellow Premier League leaders Liverpool, the only other side to have won both their games. Pepe came on in the second half of victories over Newcastle United (0-1) and Burnley (2-1), but Emery spoke to reporters on Thursday and hinted at a first start, via Hayters TV:

Hayters TV @HaytersTV

Unai Emery hints Nicolas Pepe could be in line for his full @Arsenal debut at Anfield ✨ Watch Unai Emery's full press conference 👉 https://t.co/KXM3VwCCLc https://t.co/qemv7ld2oD

Emery said:

"The most important thing is 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."

Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille for €80 million (£72 million) in July and has arrived to major expectations regarding the partnership he'll form with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

The 24-year-old is yet to score a goal or record an assist in his two cameo appearances. However, the early signs of his impact were clear during Saturday's 2-1 win over Burnley, via BT Sport and NBC (UK and U.S. viewers only):

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Anyone else gone back and watched this about 12 times this weekend? ✋ Brutal from Nicolas Pépé 😨 https://t.co/ywz2CkSMMT

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

@Arsenal fans, we have a feeling Pépé is going to make this season fun 👀 https://t.co/MeOAKS5k14

Arsenal could do with all the help they can get against last season's Premier League runners-up and defending champions of Europe.

Emery recently spoke to reporters and joked he and his side "don't ever want to play against Liverpool," suggesting he acknowledges Arsenal will be underdogs in Week 3.

Pepe completed on average 2.7 dribbles per game in Ligue 1 last season (38 league appearances), per WhoScored.com—only four players managed more. He was also fouled 2.8 times per game—Nimes midfielder Teji Savanier (3.0) was the only player to average more.

The Mirror's John Cross recently appeared on Sunday Supplement and gave an optimistic assessment of the new signing:

Sunday Supplement @SundaySupp

"Clearly, from a brief cameo performance yesterday, he's got the most quick feet. He's going to be extremely exciting." @johncrossmirror thinks new Arsenal signing Nicolas Pepe looks a special player. Watch Sunday Supplement on SS Football now. https://t.co/JLUAAbUE13

Emery got the better of Liverpool in the 2016 UEFA Europa League final, when his Sevilla side came from behind to beat the Reds 3-1 in Basel, Switzerland, and deny Klopp the title in his maiden term on Merseyside.

His more recent record against the German hasn't been as encouraging, having suffered a 5-1 demolition when they travelled to Anfield in December.

In fact, Pepe will hope to have a big hand in bridging the gap between these sides following their last few meetings on Merseyside—Arsenal have conceded 12 goals in their last three trips to face Liverpool.