Arsenal boss explains why Pepe, Ceballos and Luiz didn’t start against Newcastle

By on August 12, 2019

Unai Emery has explained why Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos and David Luiz didn’t start during Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon.

Luiz completed a surprise £8m move to Arsenal from Chelsea on deadline day with the colourful Brazilian international coming in to replace Laurent Koscielny following his move to Bordeaux.

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However, Luiz only had one full training session with his new team-mates heading into the weekend so Emery decided to stick with Calum Chambers and Sokratis in the middle of defence against Newcastle. The pair have impressed together in pre-season so it made sense to stick with them rather than throw Luiz straight into action.

Arsenal fans were desperate to see Pepe feature on Sunday but the Ivory Coast international is still not fully match fit having returned late to pre-season following his exploits at the African Cup of Nations.

Therefore, Pepe isn’t ready to play 90 minutes just yet so Emery has revealed he thought it was better to give the winger 20 minutes in the second half at Newcastle to help him build up his fitness.

Ceballos is another player who is still working his way back to full fitness as his pre-season preparations were disrupted by an ankle knock which he picked up shortly after arriving on loan from Real Madrid.

The Spanish youngster got his first taste of Premier League action when he came on in the second half at St James’ Park yesterday so hopefully he’ll be pushing to start against Burnley on Saturday if he gets a full weeks training under his belt.

Gabriel Martinelli was also named on a strong Arsenal bench on Sunday but the Brazilian attacker came on for the final 10 minutes to make his full debut while youngsters Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock were rewarded for fine pre-seasons with starts against Newcastle.

When asked why his summer signings didn’t start, Emery told Arsenal.com:

“I explained that the circumstances are different. David Luiz did pre-season with another team and he is okay to play physically but he only trained completely with us yesterday. On Friday he did 30 minutes with us. I was thinking to give them confidence to work together because they were working well together, Sokratis and Chambers.

“Nicolas Pepe came one week ago and physically he needs to get his best fitness to be ready to play 100 per cent for 90 minutes. I think that today 20 minutes is good for him.

“Ceballos is in the middle because he came before Pepe but he got an injury and he stopped training. But he needs to know the Premier League, so today was important for him and for us.

“I also used Reiss Nelson and Willock because they deserved to be with us and to give them confidence can help us. It’s the same with Martinelli, he played the last 10 minutes because he deserved it.”

It was a vital away victory on the opening weekend of the season for Arsenal but it was great to see us do it without a number of first team players and I’m glad we managed to give three of our summer signings some minutes off the bench.

It made complete sense for Emery not to throw them into action straight away, especially in a tough away fixture, but maybe we’ll see one or two make their full debuts at home to Burnley on Saturday.

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