By George Sessions, PA
Mikel Arteta has defended Arsenal’s decision to successfully apply for Sunday’s Premier League match with Tottenham to be postponed and insisted they made the request for all the right reasons.
The Spaniard revealed the Gunners still have “issues” but is hopeful they will be able to host Liverpool on Thursday in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s decision to get the north London derby postponed was met with anger by rivals Tottenham, who expressed their surprise at the fixture being rearranged.
View this post on Instagram
Martin Odegaard was the only known Covid-19 case in the Gunners squad but they were without a plethora of players due to international duty, suspension and injuries which saw them unable to raise a squad of 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper, hitting the Premier League’s criteria for a game to be off.
Arteta said: “We didn’t have the players necessary to put out a squad available to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100 per cent guaranteed but this is a no-win situation.
“When we play the first three games of the season, when other teams were postponing matches, we were killed and told don’t be naive because if you have that many players out don’t play with your kids.
“Now we postpone the match for all the right reasons, believe me, and we get this reaction but I think it is normal.”
Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League fixtures amid a Covid-19 outbreak at the club.
Sunday’s scheduled game with Spurs was the first time the Gunners had requested a match to be off and Arteta hit back at external criticism, with Tottenham boss Antonio Conte expressing his bemusement at the situation during his press conference on Tuesday.
“We will defend our clubs with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things,” the former Arsenal captain insisted.
“When a team have come to us and said we cannot play, these are the reasons and the game has been postponed, we have never ever publicly questioned any of that.
“And we will not because that is why we have the Premier League, the FA and regulators to consider, find out and do the necessary due diligence, which is a lot, to postpone a match.
“We have been very consistent. We played against (Nottingham) Forest when we had 10 players out. We try to play the next game and the next game.
“We went to Liverpool and had many players out therefore it got to a point where we could not put a squad available, as the numbers required in this league, to play a game. That is why we didn’t play, as simple as that.”
Arteta was coy over the state of the Arsenal squad for Thursday’s second leg with Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The tie at the Emirates was originally due to be the first leg but Liverpool successfully campaigned for the fixture to be postponed due to their own Covid-19 cases and it was put back two weeks with everything still to play for after a goalless draw at Anfield last week.
“I don’t want to give anything away, I’m sorry,” Arteta added when quizzed on Arsenal’s team news.
“There are issues, those issues have not been resolved and that is why we cannot play the last game but as you can understand we want to keep that eternally.
“I hope there is no more news and the game can be played, this is the way we have prepared.
“We will put the strongest team we can (out) with only one intention that after the final whistle we are at Wembley playing in the final.”
View this post on Instagram
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains absent for Arsenal but is back in London to undergo examinations on his heart after Gabon sent him home from the Africa Nations Cup due to “cardiac lesion” concerns.
Arteta revealed: “He is in London and now is going through some examinations because we haven’t had any clarity from the Gabon national team over the reasons why he came back.
“Obviously, it is our obligation to make sure medically the player is safe, in good condition and there are not any issues.”