‘The right reasons’: Mikel Arteta defends Arsenal over postponed Spurs game

Mikel Arteta has defended Arsenal’s decision to successfully apply for Sunday’s Premier League match with Tottenham to be postponed.

The manager said Arsenal still had “issues” but is hopeful they will be able to host Liverpool on Thursday in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.

Arsenal made the request to call off the north London derby with a number of players unavailable owing to a mixture of international duty, injuries, suspension and Covid-19. Martin Ødegaard was the only known Covid case.

“We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad out to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100%” Arteta said. “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?”

Spurs reacted angrily to the north London derby being postponed. Tottenham manager Antonio Conte has questioned the decision by the Premier League but Arteta said: “We will defend our club with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things.

“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 [Nottingham] Forest when we had 10 players out. It got to a point where we could not put a squad out; that is why we didn’t play. As simple as that.”

Arteta was coy over the state of his squad for Thursday. “I don’t want to give anything away, I’m sorry,” he said. “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.”

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