Arsenal head into a crucial semi-final second leg game tonight which, in many ways, could wind up determining how their season goes. They were able to hold on to a 0-0 draw in the first leg and if they can beat Liverpool and reach the League Cup final, it’ll be a huge sign of the growth they’re enjoying under the guidance of Mikel Arteta.
Still, beating the Reds is no small task, and the club as a whole will be well aware of that. During his pre-match press conference, manager Arteta spoke about the challenge that lies ahead.
On how big a moment this match is in the season:
We have the opportunity to get into a final, which is close to a title, against a big opponent, in our stadium, with our people, so we are very excited to play the game.
On the importance of the fans in this match:
They are able to change the energy, the momentum of the game, give a massive lift to the players and give them confidence so if they can drive the team the way they have been doing recently, that would be incredibly helpful to give us the best possible chance to get in the final.
On how good the atmosphere has been at the Emirates this season:
Obviously, the way to play in that stadium, when you have your people next to you, and the way they have been, how encouraging, supportive, loud, really creates a bond with the team and makes a huge difference. It is one of the best atmospheres I’ve seen for many, many years at the Emirates and I’ve been in a few of those so I can just thank the fans for their support that they are giving the team.
On whether he can give an overview of the latest team news:
I can’t and I don’t want to because I don’t want to give anything away – I’m sorry! There are issues, those issues have to be resolved that is why we couldn’t play the last game, but as you can understand we want to keep that internal.
On whether there are doubts about whether the game will be played:
I hope that there is no more news tomorrow and the game can be played. This is the way we have prepared.
On Smith Rowe, Tomiyasu and Odegaard’s availability:
They are three cases that for different reasons haven’t been able to play for us in recent weeks and we are trying to change and raise the levels of the players in the best possible way to compete tomorrow.
On the north London derby being postponed:
We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad available to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100 per cent guaranteed. This is a no-win situation. When we played the first three games of the season, when other teams were postponing matches, and we played and we tried tom play, we were killed. [People said] don’t be naive, if you have that many players out don’t play with your kids. Now we postponed the match for all the right reasons, believe me, and as well you get those reactions. But I think they are normal.
On whether he can understand the criticism:
I don’t know if I understand, I am telling you what we’ve done and when a team has come to us and said, ‘we cannot play and these are the reasons we cannot play’ and the game has been postponed, we have never, ever publicly questioned any of that. We will not, that’s why we have the Premier League, the FA and the regulators to consider and to find out and do the due diligence necessary, m which is a lot to postpone a match, to maintain the fairness of the competition.
On Aubameyang’s fitness:
He is in London and now he is going through some examinations, because we haven’t had any clarity from the Gabon national team about the reasons why he came back so obviously it is our obligation to make sure that medically the player is safe, he is in good condition and not any issues related to that – and to try to avoid any suggestion that is the case because so far historically everything we have done with the player, he has never had an issue. Hopefully that is the case.
On if he could return to the Africa Cup of Nations:
That’s the situation that we have, he contracted Covid and then the national team decided to bring him back here and this is where we are. Let’s go step by step and do the right examinations and make sure the players’ health is in the best possible condition, and then we’ll see what happens.
On if Thomas Partey could return against Burnley:
Well, they [Ghana] played last night. It was a huge disappointment for Thomas obviously because he was representing his country and in this period he had big aims towards the competition. He’s out now so he will be fully focused and involved with Arsenal as soon as possible.
On any new Covid cases:
On the reaction to the postponement of the north London derby:
We’ve been very consistent. We played against Forest when we had 10 players out, and we tried to play, and we tried to play the next game and the next game. We went to Liverpool and we played and we had many players out for that. We got to a point where we could not make a squad available with the numbers required in this league to play a game. That’s why we did not play, it’s as simple as that.
On the possibility of playing academy players:
I just go back to the facts and we have done that and we have played with academy players and with 18 and 19-year-old players. We already have the youngest squad in this league, so I think we’ve been through that and we have to be consistent. I think we’ve been really consistent and tomorrow we have everybody available as I expect. Not everybody, the players available that I expect to play the match. We will play the match because we want to play football.
On if it’s important for the integrity of the competition to play games with fully fit squads:
I don’t think you’re going to get it your way all the time here. I think you just have to expect people to follow the rules, that we are honest and that we try to maintain the integrity of the competition and the highest standards. This is what we are obligated to do with the rules that we have in this league, and we have to always make decisions in line with that.
On if Liverpool are favourites tomorrow night:
We’re going to put out the strongest team that we can with only one intention; after the final whistle, we are at Wembley and playing in the final.
On if the rules around postponements need to be more transparent:
Yes, but I think you have to do that from the beginning. To ask halfway to somebody to change when I want to be transparent, when I don’t want to be transparent and not transparent is tricky and a little bit manipulative. So I think everybody has to try and do the right thing and if we have to change things, let’s change them, but let’s all act in the same way.
On why it’s possible for academy teams to play when first-team games are postponed:
There are a lot of things that we cannot control. Those fixture lists are already set and we have the same problem. We have players that have issues with vaccinations, we have players that are coming back from loans for different reasons but they’re in our list, but we just brought them in because they’re injured and try to help them because it’s our responsibility, so the whole thing is pretty tricky to manage.
On if we’re favourites after the first leg:
I would love to feel that way! It’s a game to play, it’s just half-time, there’s another very competitive match to be played and we will play to be in that final.
On if we have a deep enough squad to go all the way to penalties:
We will have the players that we will have. Whether we play 90 or 120 minutes or penalties, only with players that have the belief that we can win the game and play the importance of that game, that’s it.
On what it will mean to reach Wembley:
Absolutely and this is why we’re here, to bring success, to bring trophies and joy to our people and keep doing what historically this club has always done and that’s our aim.
On whether the reaction to the postponement shows that people are worrying about Arsenal again:
I don’t know, I think more than hate there is a lot of respect for Arsenal, and that’s something that comes from the history of this club. How it has always acted, and how it has always behaved, and how it’s always conducted itself in many different moments. In high moments, and in low moments, and we need to keep doing that. We know we did the right thing, and we worked together with the Premier League and The FA to make that decision and to explain the reasons why. I think if anything, we have been very very honest at least.
On the history of the club being disliked by others:
Absolutely, and we will defend our club with teeth and nails. We are not going to get anybody damaging our name, or trying to lie about things that haven’t occurred. We will make mistakes, and we will put our hands up, but we will defend our club in a really strong way.
Quotes via Arsenal.com
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