(Reuters) – Playing last season’s Champions League finalists in back-to-back Premier League games is the “best test” Arsenal could have asked for, manager Unai Emery said on Thursday ahead of the weekend’s north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal lost 3-1 to European champions Liverpool in a top-of-the-table clash last weekend and they host Spurs on Sunday, a team that has won only once in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium.
“Matches like last week against Liverpool, this week against Tottenham, they are two teams who played the Champions League final. It’s amazing,” Emery told reporters. “I think it’s the best test and every time is a good moment to play against them.
“Intensity is very important. They’re going to try and play with identity and we need to impose our game plan against them knowing it’s going to be difficult.
“We need to look at our position defensively and offensively. Above all, we need to play each ball, each metre, each minute with that intensity. After, we need to be clever when we have the ball and are in good situations.”
Emery is yet to start Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and new recruit Nicolas Pepe up front together and the Spaniard said they might not be deployed together this weekend.
“My decision in each moment is thinking about how we are,” Emery added. “With Lacazette, he had a problem with his ankle… He’s getting better and feeling better with his ankle, it’s very positive.
“With Pepe, he came here later than the others but he is getting and feeling better in each match. Aubameyang is very important for us… The most important thing for me is to have chances and we can score with different players.”
Emery confirmed left back Nacho Monreal might be a late departure before the European transfer window closes on Sept. 2 but dismissed suggestions that midfielder Mesut Ozil would be sold.
“No, we are not speaking about the possibility for Mesut to leave,” Emery said. “This week he’s training well and progressing physically better and training with normal work for us. He’s going to be… available for Sunday I think.
“We cannot sign another player but we have some players with the possibility to leave in the next four days.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)