Unai Emery dropped his prezzer and strongly hinted that Pepe was close to being ready for his first start.
“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.
I think part of our defensive strategy has to be lining up with players that can spring a counter. We’ve not been a pace threat for many years, now we really are looking quite formidable in that department.
The manager also has two new options to choose from, Xhaka and Ozil returned to full training.
“Tomorrow is the last training and we are going to decide tomorrow. Today they trained, but really, I need tomorrow to have the last training, to be really sure how we can be better there. I know some players need to be fit and to improve 100 per cent to be in their best fitness. But tomorrow is the day. Really I am positive with some players for Saturday but I don’t want to decide today or to say to you today how we are because tomorrow can change.”
Those two are huge options and what the manager does will gives us a good indicator of their importance to the team moving forward. My gut says he’ll start Xhaka, but I’m not so sure about Ozil.
The manager also had some interesting words on Matteo.
“We have a lot of young players and they can develop a lot. We are going to help them, to push them and also they need to break different levels and achieve individually in their performance. We are here to help them and give them chances. Matteo is very young but he has talent and his talent is also to adapt to what we need or what is needed in the Premier League. It’s also to be physically strong. We are working tactically and individually to improve, we are working with him on the videos and on the pitch and we are speaking to him because it’s a big challenge for me, for our coaches and for him to achieve a big level here. He is in this process. Last year, for me he was very good in his process but he missed a lot to achieve in his career the big performances and big moments for him and to help us. But really I am very, very optimistic with him because he has this talent and I think we can also improve him on other things, like physically we are working with him in the gym, and mentally. He’s a young player with potential who can now help us to achieve the best performances.”
I was told that some of the other players thought he was a bit meek last season, in the sense that he’d duck physical confrontations on the pitch and shirked challenges. I also think there’s a bit of perception that he’s into the finer things in life, which is maybe part of the mental side Emery is referring to.
He’s a very good player, breaking into the Premier League and running the midfield is a true rarity in the game. For me, I want to see where he takes his talents. What is his special sauce? There’s a debate that the top midfielders these days are all-rounders, versus the specialists they could be maybe 10 years ago. There’s a lot of merit in that debate, just look at the Liverpool midfield… even with that being said, I’m hoping there’s more to come. Goals? Assists? Kante like brutality? We’ll see…
I really liked Emery’s dad answer on social media.
‘I only use it when I think it can give me some good information or help me in some opinion. But really, when people cannot control the social media, it’s not positive for us.’
I also like that the manager is TEAM VAR.
“For me, VAR is positive. It’s coming to help us, to help the referees and to be fair in different circumstances in one game. After this, I think it’s also right to think to not stop the intensity and the rhythm in the matches and not to stop for a lot of minutes. At the moment, sometimes it’s going to be positive for us, sometimes it’s going to be negative. But really, now, in my mind, it’s positive for everybody, for every team and for the Premier League to help them. Sometimes it’s helping us, sometimes it’s not helping us, but it’s fair.”
It’s not perfect right now. They need to use it less and give the refs a little more power over decisions. The flow of the game being interrupted for every goal is not how I saw it playing out. It should help the game flow, it shouldn’t hinder. It should be an arbiter, not go to. It should bring the fans into the decision making in the ground.
When that’s all fixed, I don’t see how we’ll miss rampant injustice.
Right, that’s me done. LISTEN TO THE DAMN PODCAST. x