‘Please don’t go back to that’ – Arteta keen to avoid closed door games

Mikel Arteta is desperate for fans to keep coming to games as “the competition gets lost” when fixtures are played behind closed doors.

A rise in Covid-19 cases led to calls for there to be a circuit-breaker in the Premier League. This was rejected on Monday as clubs were in favour of playing on.

There are fears that English games could be back behind closed doors soon though. This comes after the Scottish and Welsh governments announced that more strict Covid-19 would come into force for sporting events from Boxing Day onwards.

Arteta need not be tempted by Coutinho at Arsenal

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s trip to Norwich, Arteta said: “Please don’t go back to that (behind closed doors) stage because we have experienced that and it is something we don’t like – so hopefully it is not what happens.

“It is a different sport. Football is all about sharing it with people and having fans around the stadiums.

“When it is not, it is a completely different sport and the competition gets lost. It is not the same.”

The Gunners were able to play in front of supporters during Tuesday night’s 5-1 Carabao Cup quarter-final victory over Sunderland and will be greeted by a passionate home faithful at Carrow Road this weekend for the clash with Norwich.

Calum Chambers is set to miss the Boxing Day fixture after he became the latest player at the club to test positive for Covid-19, joining Pablo Mari and Albert Sambi Lokonga in being sidelined by the virus.

Sead Kolasinac (ankle) remains on the treatment table, while Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were absent for the midweek match and will be assessed.

Arteta added: “We didn’t pick up any injuries yesterday. Before the game we lost Calum with Covid and he will be tested every day to see how he goes.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sat out the League Cup victory, having also missed the wins over Southampton, West Ham and Leeds following internal disciplinary action.

The Gabon international has already lost the captaincy for an incident described as a “disciplinary breach”, which reportedly concerned a late return from a trip abroad to visit his ill mother.

“We go game by game and we decide the squad as we get closer to the game,” Arteta replied when quizzed on Aubameyang’s availability.

Pushed further during his pre-match press conference, the Spanish coach remained not-committal and insisted an apology from the forward would not provide much of a solution.

“What I said is we will make the squad the day before and as today is still Wednesday, I haven’t done the squad,” the 39-year-old commented.

“Because we used to do the press conference on matchday minus one, that is why on matchday minus one I can tell you.

“I think we have shown in this club that everyone can make mistakes or can have different ways of thinking and acting, I am completely open to that. It is not about that (an apology).”

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