London (AFP) – Mikel Arteta vowed to defend Arsenal’s reputation with “teeth and nails” after criticism of the club’s successful request to postpone the north London derby against Tottenham.
The Gunners asked for last Sunday’s game to be rescheduled, with a significant number of players unavailable due to a mixture of international duty, injuries, suspension and coronavirus cases.
“We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad out to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100 percent,” Arsenal boss Arteta said on Wednesday.
“This is a no-win situation. When we play the first three games of the season when other games were off, we were killed and called naive. Now we postpone a match for all the right reasons, believe me, and we get these reactions?”
Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League fixtures after Covid-19 outbreak at the club.
Spurs had reacted angrily to the Premier League’s decision to call off the visit of their London rivals.
“It’s the first time in my life — and I’ve had a bit of experience in football — to see postponed games because of injuries,” said Tottenham manager Antonio Conte.
But, speaking ahead of Thursday’s League Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool, Arteta insisted the criticism was wide of the mark and said Arsenal did not have the numbers to put a squad together.
– Arteta hits back –
“We will defend our club with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things,” the former Arsenal captain said.
“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.”
The Arsenal v Liverpool match at the Emirates Stadium should have been the first leg of the League Cup semi-final two weeks ago, before a coronavirus outbreak within the Liverpool camp led to its postponement.
Arsenal held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg at Anfield last week despite playing more than an hour with 10 men after the dismissal of Granit Xhaka.
Arteta also told reporters that forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, was back in London to undergo medical tests after Gabon sent him home from the Africa Nations Cup.
“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,” said the Arsenal boss.
In his own press conference, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said he had no complaints over recent Covid postponements both in the Premier League and the League Cup.
“It’s really difficult to judge from outside,” said Lijnders, who himself tested positive earlier this month during an outbreak at Liverpool.
“We saw this with our own situation. I fully respect the submissions because I trust 100 percent the medical departments of each Premier League club. I think this is the most important thing, full trust in these decisions.”
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