Unai Emery believes Arsenal must deliver against big guns to fight for top-four

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Unai Emery says Arsenal must improve their record against the Premier League’s best sides if they are to force their way back into the top four.

The Gunners finished fifth last season, just a point behind neighbours Tottenham, as Emery came close to securing a return to Champions League football in his first season at the helm.

Arsenal face Liverpool on Saturday evening, visiting Anfield for the first time since they suffered a 5-1 defeat there last term.

Emery’s side also lost at Chelsea and Manchester City during the 2018-19 campaign, with draws at Manchester United and Spurs meaning they were unable to beat any of their fellow top-six sides away from the Emirates Stadium.

Struggling on the road against their closest rivals is not a new phenomenon for Arsenal, whose away form in general has been poor for the past three years.

Emery takes his team back to Liverpool with both sides looking to continue their winning starts to the season, and he knows improvements are required to overturn recent history.

Asked if Arsenal’s record against the top six needs to pick up, the former Paris St Germain boss replied: “We need to (improve) because, when we are playing against them, it’s three points that you can take and they cannot take.

“But after that you need also to achieve the three points in other matches against other teams.

“In 38 matches you are going to play at home and away 19 matches – against the top four and every team.”

Despite recent woes, Emery insists those results do not impact on his approach as he seeks a victory that would see Arsenal end the weekend at the top of the table.

“Really, really it’s not relevant for me,” said Emery, whose side conceded two penalties at Anfield last season.

“Now relevant for me is each match is different. Each match can be similar to last year, (but) we are different players, a different team.

“Other teams are also different and some different circumstances can come in each match. I hope on Saturday not to receive two penalties against us, for example.

“I am preparing for the match with our best circumstances possible to achieve the victory.”

Mesut Ozil could make his first appearance of the campaign, while Granit Xhaka is also in contention after missing the win over Burnley with back bruising.

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Arsenal boss Unai Emery could hand Nicolas Pepe first start against Liverpool

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Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has hinted he could hand club-record signing Nicolas Pepe his first start as the Gunners travel to face Liverpool this weekend.

The Ivory Coast international has come off the bench in the opening two Premier League fixtures of the season.

He replaced Reiss Nelson at half-time in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Burnley and showed some good touches as he continues to build an understanding with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

While Emery has often taken time to bed new players into his side, he feels the 24-year-old could now be ready to step up.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Final

“The most important thing is, like a person, to help him and his family to feel comfortable here,” Emery said of the £72million man.

“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.”

Both Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil are expected to be fully recovered from the issues which kept them out of the Burnley win as Arsenal head back to Liverpool looking to escape the kind of thrashing they have endured there in recent years.

A 5-1 defeat last year was preceded by 4-0 and 3-1 losses under Arsene Wenger but Emery will not be letting the gravity of those results weigh heavy on his players heading into Saturday.

“Each match, each moment, each season is different,” he added.

“We can use last year, two years ago, three years ago, four years ago (to learn).

“But really it’s about our moment and this moment. Anfield is a big atmosphere with their supporters, they are a very good team and they advantage for us in their progress and in the last years.

“In Anfield they have one step more in feeling strong, but it’s not for us, it’s for all.

“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.

“We are looking forward to going there and showing that.”

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Former Man United prodigy Ravel Morrison backed by Chris Wilder to finally fulfill potential

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Ravel Morrison is ready to make his first Premier League appearance in five years, according to Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder.

The former Manchester United trainee is back in the English top flight after signing a 12-month deal with the Blades this summer, following spells in Italy, Mexico and Sweden.

Morrison has yet to appear for Wilder’s team in the opening two matches this season, not even making the bench, but did play in a behind-closed-doors game against his former club United this week.

The 26-year-old forward, who can also play in midfield, will hope to be involved against Leicester at Bramall Lane on Saturday but if he is not then he will likely make his debut against Blackburn in the Carabao Cup on August 27.

“He’s ready. He’s been in both squads without playing but we played a behind-closed-doors game against Manchester United in the week and he played 90 minutes in that,” said Wilder.

“It was a great exercise for us against about £200million worth of talent. When we talked about playing a behind-closed-doors against Manchester United and then all of a sudden some unbelievably talented footballers came walking over towards our boys, it was a bit like ‘wow, this is a proper game!’

“It was a good exercise for our boys against world-class players and we certainly appreciate the opportunity going over to Manchester United and them putting the game on for us.

“But Rav has a big part to play, he knows that. We talk about picking the side and it’s a difficult selection process for myself and picking the subs as well. There’s a lot of competition to even get on the bench and we need that.”

Wilder also revealed forward Callum Robinson will be fit for the weekend after coming off injured against Crystal Palace on Sunday. However, the news was not so good regarding midfielder John Fleck.

“We’ve a doubt about John Fleck but Callum has trained all week,” he said. “Those two both had to come off with injuries but we’ll give John that time to recover.”

The Blades have made a solid start to life back in the Premier League, building on their opening-day draw at Bournemouth by defeating Palace 1-0.

Ahead of Leicester’s visit to Bramall Lane, Wilder insists his squad are not getting ahead of themselves.

“They won’t get carried away, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “They haven’t done for three years so they certainly won’t after two games in a different league.

“I’ve always kept my feet on the ground, I’ve never got ahead of myself. I think it’s a dangerous game to do that whether you’re a player, manager or a coach.

“At the moment I’m in the Premier League but I want to stay in here for a number of years and that’s got to be our attitude. That’s an attitude that’s driven myself on personally and I look at our players and I see a lot of similarities in their approach as well.

“The drive from the staff and the message that comes across all the time is a consistent one so that’s why I can confidently say that they’ll never get ahead of themselves because it’s not a trait that my team has.”

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