By Carl Markham, PA
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta praised the defensive effort which earned his side a goalless draw against Liverpool in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final – but fears it may have put Sunday’s north London derby in doubt.
After Granit Xhaka’s second red card in just 13 appearances this season the Gunners were forced to play for 71 minutes with 10 men at Anfield but their organised 5-3-1 formation was enough to comfortably keep their opponents at bay.
But with Xhaka now suspended, Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka injury doubts after limping off, four other players injured or out with Covid and four at the African Nations Cup, Arteta could be without 11 players for the trip to Tottenham.
“I am really proud of the what the boys did today, in a difficult stadium against a great opponent and playing 70 minutes with 10 men,” he said.
“It was about the fight, the spirit and commitment and quality to play the game.
“When you come to a stadium like this you have to pick players who are happy to go to war because you are going to have to fight, you are going to have difficult moments to suffer.
“You are willing to accept you are are not going to play the game you want.
“When you play with that spirit and fight and brotherhood around the team you get rewarded and I think that is what happened.”
But on how the knock-on effects may impact this weekend’s Premier League match the Spaniard added: “I don’t know.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 13, 2022
“It is a possibility in every game, 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.”
Liverpool’s problem is how to find a way of replacing the goals usually provided by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are both at the African Nations Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were restricted to just one shot on target – in added time – from 17 attempts.
In the 263 minutes of six matches this season Liverpool have played against 10 men they have scored only three times, two of which were penalties.
“It looked like we were under pressure. That makes no sense but that is human,” Klopp said.
“You go out there for winning. It’s difficult against a well-drilled formation. We didn’t create enough, we didn’t do lots of things good enough.
“Then it was a red card and playing against the low block and it is difficult. On top of that we made a few wrong decisions.
“But in the end it’s 0-0, half-time, let’s go.”
On his absent star forwards, Klopp added: “There isn’t one team who wouldn’t miss Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita.
“We’ve known that for years it could happen. Could we be better prepared for it? I don’t think so.
“What they had tonight was a football problem and this team can solve that football problem, definitely.”