EPL

Arteta ready to make late call on Arsenal defenders after ignoring Conte barb

By Sports Desk May 14, 2022

Mikel Arteta is keen to focus on the future rather than Arsenal's midweek defeat to rivals Tottenham, although that match has left him with a real problem at centre-back.

Arsenal went down 3-0 to Spurs on Thursday, increasing the pressure on Arteta's side, who are one point ahead of their fifth-placed neighbours in the top four with two Premier League games remaining.

The first of those is away to Newcastle United on Monday, by which point Tottenham will have played Burnley and could be fourth.

And Arsenal may head into that match without a single senior centre-back. Rob Holding was sent off at Spurs and is suspended, while Gabriel Magalhaes went off injured. Ben White, on the bench last time out, was not considered fit enough to bring on.

Speaking on Saturday, Arteta acknowledged any decision on Gabriel and White would have to go to the wire.

"We will have to modify certain positions to try to make it work because we don't have more defenders," he said.

"And even though we have academy players, they haven't experienced those positions a lot because they are not specified central defenders. It's something we'll try to find a way [to solve]."

Arteta added: "Tomorrow [Sunday] will be the day when we will have better answers [on Gabriel and White] – probably not the answers that we want on matchday, but hopefully better answers.

"We'll probably know more tomorrow, so we wanted to extend this period as much as possible to understand how they are recovering, how they are feeling, assess them, and tomorrow we'll probably know more about how they are."

Meanwhile, Arteta was not interested in entertaining discussion of the Tottenham defeat.

"Forwards," he said. "I said it after the [post-match] press conference, I just look forward."

Even mention of Antonio Conte's claims Arteta complains too much did not prompt a response from the Arsenal manager.

Asked what he would tell Conte, Arteta replied: "That I'm fully focused on Newcastle."

Despite his clear anger at how that match played out, the Gunners boss is looking to lift his players, reminding them their performances have put them in pole position ahead of Spurs.

"That [result] was a possibility," Arteta said, "and we knew that to get into the position that we are in today, a lot has happened in the past.

"We've been through it, we have experienced it, and hopefully that can help us again on Monday."

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