Arsenal manager Unai Emery has what every football manager is always striving for: a selection headache. Not, you understand, a problem picking players for a squad, but rather an embarrassment of riches. Last week Emery was forced to pitch in a crop of youngsters as the Gunners kicked off their Premier League season with a 1-0 win at Newcastle United in the opening game of the new campaign. Players such as winger Reiss Nelson and midfielder Joe Willock were pressed in to action for the victory over the Geordies in a game that many observers have suggested the Reds may have lost or drawn last term.
Deadly marksman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got the only goal of the game when he took Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ inch-perfect cross in his stride with one touch and with a second touch lifted the ball into the net. It was, in all senses, a masterclass in finishing.
For the next game on the calendar, an encounter with Sean Dyche’s Burnley side at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) with a 12.30pm kick-off, Emery could welcome back two players missing from the trip to the Toon in the shape of playmaker Mesut Ozil and utility man Sead Kolasinac. But it wasn’t a case of either of these Gunners ace being injured as the reason they missed out, it was over security fears following an attempted car-jacking on the pair recently.
Both are now back in line to make the squad and Emery is delighted this is the case. He said of the matter when quizzed ahead of the game against the Clarets:
“It’s good news for us because they can help us in matches. My focus is to be positive and focus on making sure the players are 100 per cent in their minds here.”
Emery added that he wanted to help the duo to be with the team, get back to normal training, and to once again start thinking about football. He continued:
“Above all, I want them to be able to focus on each training session and each match.”
Auba’s regular strike partner, Alex Lacazette, was missing from the win at St James’ Park but he is nearing full fitness as is Lucas Torreira, the Uruguayan midfielder who was on international duty with his national side over the summer and thus needed extra rest time before he came back in to the fold.
Arsenal’s record signing Nic Pepe, who arrived just before the transfer deadline for a whopping £72 million, came on as a second-half sub in the previous game and would well be handed his full debut by Emery. Another new recruit, Kieran Tierney, continues to make progress, too, but it could well be a month before he gets in the frame.