The controversial postponement of Arsenal’s first leg League Cup semi-final tie has been well documented, and instead of dwelling on it, we want to look ahead to the immediate future. Arsenal will travel to Anfield this evening for the first leg of a game that has plenty of stakes attached to it,with a place in the League Cup final against Chelsea being top of the list.
Mikel Arteta knows and understands how important this fixture could be for the club’s season, and he spoke candidly about it with the media.
On the possibility of this game being postponed:
You can never guarantee anything because you know things can change dramatically in 10 seconds when the doctor comes to the door and gives you the news, and we have experienced that already twice this season. Our willingness is always to play.
On now playing the home leg second:
Things have changed because the timing of the game has become different. The first leg is in a different place. It’s completely uncertain and unpredictable, but it is what it is, so I don’t know how it’s going to change. Nobody knows until we are on the pitch and we start to compete to reach that final.
On facing Liverpool without Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah:
I always have hope when I play and when I’m competing for any trophy. They have a couple of players out, we certainly have a lot out as well. It is what it is. We’re going to have to go there to try to win the first match because it’s going to put us in a better position for the second one.
On Liverpool’s false-positive tests:
It’s something that is not in our control. The EFL is responsible to check every single player’s status and then make the decision whether the game is played or not. The decision was to postpone the match and I’m sure if that was the case, then they had the right arguments to do so.
On the reliability of testing:
We just trust that every test is going to be as reliable as possible. It is always going to be a percentage that might get the results wrong. First of all, you have to trust the people who do it, that it’s done in the right way and that we have the right equipment or the best possible equipment that we have and after that, it is difficult to judge.
On the reaction of Tavares after being replaced against Nottingham Forest:
That’s a really personal thing. It’s not what you prepare. It’s something that you don’t certainly train for so I think it comes into the emotional moment and the character of that player.
On if clubs will spend more freely in January now fans have returned to stadiums:
I don’t know the financial power and position of other clubs. You hear a lot of rumours as you hear about us. Some of them can be possible and some others they are not even considered. I think clubs are always willing to try to improve. We know that there are a couple of clubs in England now that have the possibility to buy players in January, some of them have already done. I’m expecting more activity than last year because clubs are in a better position, but I don’t know how far we’ve come still through this pandemic.
On if it’s realistic to pull off a big-money signing without European football:
I don’t know. Historically this club has always been targeting the best players in the world and the best players in the world are always interested to come here and I can say that situation hasn’t changed. Anytime I have spoken to any player, they were so willing to come, I haven’t faced any other situation and that’s one of our biggest powers, our capacity to get the attention of people to come and join our club, it’s something that is a big advantage for us.
On why Emile Smith Rowe lost his place in our starting XI:
The reason why that happened is because he wasn’t fit. There was nothing else. His performances, when he’s been fit, have been extraordinary, the way he’s evolving, with the importance that he has in the team, I think it’s without a doubt really, really positive, but he’s had an issue that he’s been carrying and obviously that’s been affecting his ability to train, his ability to compete, the amount of minutes that we can give him and we are trying to get that situation resolved as quickly as possible, because we need the best version of Emile for us to be successful.
On the changes that Smith Rowe made to his lifestyle:
Yeah, but that takes the demands in every area, in every aspect to a completely different level. The moment that you have more exposure, media-wise, expectation-wise, you play with the national team, you go with the national team and you score, you’re scoring frequently, then the demands, the load, the stress, everything is higher and you have to cope with that. People think it’s naturally easy to do and it’s not that easy to do, and then you have to start to think that I’m going to be playing 60/70 games, playing pain-free, it just doesn’t happen in elite sport and you have to start to live with that.
On whether he considered delaying Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ loan move:
We talked about all the possibilities. When you are finalising a deal there are certain things that you cannot miss out if you want to complete that deal. Again, I said the interest of the player was that clear after what happened in the summer that we felt it was the right thing to do and it was a matter of over a day or two that we tried to do that, but as well you have to have the player in the right mindset to compete, knowing that he’s going to leave in the next day. I don’t think that we can make a decision that is going to have an impact in the next six, 18 months, just for a day or two, I don’t think it’s very logically.
On his approach to the game given the fixtures coming up:
Well we know the impact that these games are going to have on our season. We knew before the Forest game, and we didn’t have a lot of options. We had ten players who could not start that game. That’s half of the team, for different reasons. It was a big lesson, we know that we didn’t perform at a level that was good enough. We have to move on because these next four games we have ahead of us are far too important.
On whether he asked to get the Forest game postponed:
No we didn’t, everything occurred pretty quickly. I may repeat myself: we are willing to play football matches, we don’t want to keep postponing matches. That’s how we intend to approach every single game, but if something different happens, we will see.
On whether the semi-finals should be over just one leg:
Well with the look of our fixture list for the next few years – and it’s something we have talked about between the managers and the Premier League as well – something has to be done. It probably wasn’t possible to do it this season, because the commitments were already arranged, but it’s something that in my opinion has to be discussed.
On whether the League Cup could disappear completely:
From my side we haven’t reached those conversations yet.
Quotes via Arsenal.com
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