Spirit of Anfield draw can help depleted Arsenal in north London derby, says Mikel Arteta
Arsenal are looking into the prospect of postponing Sunday’s north London derby as they assess their squad at their training base this afternoon.
Arteta praised his side’s “resilience” and “spirit” after they held on for a goalless draw at Anfield, despite playing more than an hour with ten men after Granit Xhaka’s red card.
The result effectively turns next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against the same opponents into a one-off knockout game but before then, Arteta’s men face the small matter of a north London derby away from home this weekend.
Xhaka’s red card, as well as knocks for Bukayo Saka and Cedric Soares, added to Arteta’s selection woes, with Covid, injury and AFCON absences already having depleted his squad.
Many of Arsenal’s remaining players looked exhausted at full-time at Anfield, but the Spaniard will have little choice but to ask almost all of them to go again - and he believes they will be better for having had that battle.
“It certainly gives them the experience that they are able to do that,” Arteta said on Friday. “That resilience to do what they did last night is based on your spirit, your belief and the fact that you’re never going to give up, and take on any challenge that is facing you - and do your best.
“Sometimes you have to still extend that and against the team that we played last night, that was necessary and most of the players did it.”
The draw in trying circumstances against Liverpool came just 10 days after the Gunners outplayed Manchester City in the Premier League before losing to a stoppage time Rodri goal, having once again had a man sent off.
Those results and performances remain in contrast to the heavy losses Arsenal suffered against the same teams earlier in the season and Arteta sees the signs of progress.
“I think we are in the right direction,” he added. “Yesterday we had to play an extremely difficult match, 70 minutes with 10 men, but I saw a lot of leadership on that pitch from very young players and that gives me a lot of encouragement because they understood what was needed, they were up for the challenge and they showed a real fight and resilience to do what they did.”
Sunday’s game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will see Arteta face Antonio Conte for the first time in his managerial career.
The Gunners routed Spurs 3-1 at the Emirates earlier in the season, during Nuno Espirito Santo’s doomed tenure, but Arteta believes Conte’s presence in the dugout means his side can take little from that victory.
“What Antonio brings is a lot of clarity of his way of playing,” he said. “He masters what he has done, he is an extremely successful coach. They play differently, they have different principles they apply and it will be a really difficult match.
“We know that what happened in September has no value now, it is a new match and a really important one for us.”