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Mikel Arteta says Arsenal postponed the north London derby for the appropriate reasons following Tottenham’s criticism.

Mikel Arteta has responded to Tottenham’s criticism of Arsenal for postponing Sunday’s north London derby, stating that the Gunners would never openly question an opponent’s reasons for seeking a postponement.

Arsenal requested a postponement of the Premier League encounter, alleging they were missing “a large number of players throughout our team due to Covid, injuries, and players abroad with their country at AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations).”

The Premier League approved the request on Saturday, with Spurs issuing a statement expressing surprise at the decision and head coach Antonio Conte stating on Tuesday that only Covid situations should be considered when the league decides whether to put off matches.

Arteta refused to say which players may be available for Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg at home to Liverpool – which will be shown live on Sky Sports – but defended his club’s actions forcefully.

“We lacked the players required to field a side capable of competing in a Premier League match,” he explained. “That is a 100% guarantee.

“I’m not sure I understand. I’m going to tell you what we did. If a team has to us and stated, ‘we are unable to play for the following reasons,’ and the game has been postponed, we have never publicly questioned any of that, and we will not do so again.

“That is why we have the Premier League, the FA (Football Association), and the regulators to evaluate, to ascertain and do the required due diligence in order to postpone a match in order to preserve the competition’s fairness.”

“We are certain that we made the correct decision. If anything, I believe we have been quite candid.

“We will fight tooth and nail to save our club. We are not going to allow anyone to smear our reputation or attempt to fabricate events that have not occurred.

“If we make a mistake, we will admit it, but we will defend our club with vigour.”

The Premier League and Arsenal have come under fire following the weekend’s decision, with Paul Merson telling Sky Sports he “cannot believe” his old side was able to reschedule the match.

However, Arteta accused opponents of hypocrisy, citing Arsenal’s early-season Covid outbreak – which resulted in them losing their first three league games – as well as a lack of player availability for this month’s FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest and last week’s Carabao Cup encounter at Anfield.

“This is a lose-lose situation,” Arteta contended. “During our first three games of the season, we were pelted with comments such as ‘don’t be foolish; if you have so many players out, don’t play with your kids.’

“Now, trust me, we postponed a match for quite legitimate reasons, and you get that reaction. However, I believe that is typical.

“We’ve maintained a high level of consistency. We faced Forest with ten players missing. We traveled to Liverpool and played during a period when we were shorthanded.

“We reached a point where we were unable to field a squad as needed by this league to play a game. That is why we did not play – plain and straightforward.”

‘Aubameyang is having testing in London’
Arteta was able to provide some light on the strange case of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was returned from the Africa Cup of Nations by Gabon due to “cardiac lesions” allegedly caused by a round of Covid.

The striker – who was stripped of his Arsenal captaincy earlier this season for disciplinary issues – was compelled to deny that similar behavioral concerns were not behind his early departure from Gabon’s AFCON campaign.

“He’s in London and is currently undergoing exams,” Arteta explained. “We haven’t received any clarification from the Gabon national team regarding why he returned.”

“Clearly, it is our responsibility to ensure his medical safety and well-being. Historically, he has never had that difficulty with anything we’ve done with the athlete.”

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