Mikel Arteta says that Arsenal 100% could not put out a team for last Sunday’s North London derby, insisting that the club played within the rules by applying for a postponement.
He also raised an eyebrow at some of the media coverage, citing the early games of the season when the Gunners had Covid cases, and made it clear that at no time did the Gunners raise any questions about other games which were called off – including the Wolves game which was supposed to take place over the festive period.
Asked about the postponement, and Sp*rs somewhat surly reaction to it, Arteta said, “We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad available to compete in a Premier League match – that is 100% guaranteed.
“But this situation is, I think, a no-win situation. When we played the first three games of the season, while other teams were postponing matches, and we played and we tried to play, we were killed because you said ‘Don’t be naive, because you have that many players out, don’t play with your kids’.
“And now we postponed the match for all the right reasons, believe me.”
He was then asked if he understood confusion over the game being called off because of a low number of Covid cases, he replied, “I don’t know if I understand. I’m telling you what we’ve done.
“When a team has come to us and said ‘We cannot play, and these are the reasons why we cannot play’ and the game has been postponed, we have never, ever publicly questioned any of that.
“And we will not because that’s why we have the Premier League and the FA and the regulators to consider and to find out and to do the due diligence necessary – which is a lot – to postpone a match to try to maintain the defence of the competition.
“We played against Forest when we had 10 players out. And we tried to play, and we tred to play the next game and the next game.
“We went to Liverpool and we played and we had many players out. After that we got to a point where we could not put a squad available – as the numbers required in this league – to play again, that’s why we didn’t play as simple as that.
“I just go back to the facts, we have played with Academy players. And we have played with 18/19 years old players, when we already have the youngest squad in this league.”
As for accusations and insinuations that the Arsenal had cheated, the boss was having none of it.
“We will defend our club with teeth and nails,” he said.
“We’re not going to get anybody damaging our our name or trying to lie about things that they haven’t occurred. If we make mistakes, we’ll put our hand up, but we will defend our club in a really strong way.”
It was a strong press conference showing from the manager, let’s hope the team can match that against the Mugsmashers tomorrow.