Unai Emery has said he would never ask a player to perform at anything less than 100 per cent, despite the all-important Lucas Torreira being just one yellow card away from missing Arsenal’s trip to Liverpool on Saturday.
Torreira, who has been arguably his side’s most influential player this season, will miss the Anfield match if he receives a fifth booking of the campaign against Brighton on Wednesday. Asked if the fear of losing Torreira would affect how he wanted the Uruguayan to approach the game, Emery said he would not allow any of his players to go into a match with extra caution.
“In my career, I never made these decisions,” Emery said. “We are going to play the next match in Brighton and we are going to play full, not with considered options or playing with more caution.
“The same three points are in Brighton that are in Liverpool and we are going to play first in Brighton. It’s a tough match and we will need every player with 100 per cent focus to do everything on the pitch to win.
“I don’t want him to think about the possibility of a suspension for one yellow card. I don’t want him to think about that.”
A booking for Torreira would increase the pressure on Matteo Guendouzi in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield. The 19-year-old, who joined the club in the summer, has been far more pivotal this season than was expected when he was signed as an exciting youth prospect.
Despite his age, Guendouzi has played 23 matches in all competitions this season but Emery said the Frenchman has the physical capabilities to keep going through the festive fixture pile-up.
“It’s our process with some players,” Emery said. “I am very happy with Matteo and he is improving a lot. He is helping us and he gives a lot of moments with the combinations, the quality and the possibility to play with our style. He needs to improve more and needs to continue his progress with us, but I think he’s very young.”
Emery revealed how Laurent Koscielny, the club captain, had joked last week that he was “not Matteo” and that he could not play every game.
Emery had asked the 33-year-old whether he could feature against Burnley, but Koscielny said he was in need of a rest after starting two matches in a week following seven months out with an Achilles injury.
“I was speaking with Koscielny and I spoke with him about the possibility to play against Burnley and he said ‘not today’ because he’s very tired after two matches in a week,” Emery said. “I decided for him not to be with the group. He said ‘I’m not Matteo! Matteo is 19 and I’m 33 years old!’”
Emery will be hoping that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can continue his impressive goalscoring form over the Christmas period. The striker, who struck twice against Burnley, has moved to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with 12 goals.
Aubameyang has now scored 22 goals in his 31 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, which is the most clinical start a striker has ever enjoyed at the club. Thierry Henry, the next most prolific Arsenal player after 31 Premier League games, had scored 17 goals at this stage of his career in north London.
Emery has challenged Aubameyang to win the Golden Boot this season, but is more concerned for now with keeping clean sheets. His side have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 league matches.
“I want every player to help with goals and assists,” Emery said. “We need to continue improving so that we can have more clean sheets and concede less chances for the opposition.”