Mikel Arteta says there is a chance the North London derby could be called off as Arsenal are on threshold of not having enough players to fulfil the fixture.
Arsenal’s manager was buoyant on Thursday night, hailing his team’s spirit and mentality for grinding out a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their semi-final against Liverpool. They played with 10 men for 66 minutes, after Granit Xhaka’s red card, and result makes them favourites to reach the Carabao Cup final.
But Arteta was quick to point out that Arsenal’s ever expanding injury and illness list means the prospect of them not being in position to travel to Tottenham is real; they now have 11 players missing for a variety of reasons and the squad could be as low as 12 available for Sunday.
Mikel Arteta said that the North London Derby this weekend is at risk of being postponed
‘It is a possibility in every game,’ said Arteta. ‘From our side, from the opponents’ side, because of the amount of issues everyone is having and because it is happening every week. We try to prepare games thinking we are going to play. If something happens along the way, it is what it is.’
Though Arsenal had one lucky reprieve in the last minute, when Japan international Taki Minamino blazed over with the goal at his mercy, they showed belligerence and organisation to restrict Liverpool to just one shot on target during the 90 minutes.
This was the first game Liverpool had failed to score in at Anfield since last April, when they were held by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final, but Arsenal were never taken into situations that left them vulnerable. Ben White, in particular, was outstanding.
The Gunners take on their arch rivals, Tottenham, on Sunday in a huge Premier League clash
Yet the north Londoners are contending with a growing list of absentees for various reasons
‘When you come to a stadium like this, I said to them you have to pick players who are happy to go to war with, going to fight,’ Arteta explained. ‘You are going to have difficult moments when you suffer. It is about how you approach those moments.
‘If you are willing to help your team, willing to accept that in some moments you are not going to play the game you want then good things are going to happen. When you play with that spirit, fight and brotherhood around the team, in the end you get rewarded. That is what happened.’
White added: ‘That was terrible! But it’s nice to defend like that as a defender, keep a clean sheet and go home with a result. It wasn’t easy at all, especially against a team like Liverpool. It’s tough but you have to concentrate. You need a bit of luck which we had and the result is well deserved.’
The Gunners currently have 11 players sidelined for various reasons and that could grow
Arsenal’s fans were buoyant at the final whistle but for all that Liverpool were lacklustre, Jurgen Klopp – who admitted his team played poorly after they had the numerical advantage – was not going to concede the tie.
Klopp said: ‘“I have no idea what Arsenal will do when we play at Arsenal. My mind is already on Brentford. I know we can play better, we know we have to play better. A lot of things I liked, but the general outcome was not good enough. That’s the truth of this game and we have to accept it.
‘But it’s 0-0 at half-time, so let’s go for it.’