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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has vowed to defend the club's honour tooth and nail following criticism of their request to postpone last week's North London derby. 

They claimed that they didn't have enough senior players available to contest Sunday's game away to Tottenham.

The Premier League granted the request, but it hasn't prevented claims that Arsenal were abusing rules that were put in place to help clubs deal with COVID-19 absentees.

The Arsenal request came in the same week that they sent first-team players Folarin Balogun (Middlesbrough) and Ainsley Maitland Niles (Roma) out on loan.

"We played against Forest when we had ten players out," Arteta explained, "We tried to play and tried to play the next game.

"It got to our point where we could not put a squad available to play a game. That's why we didn't play, as simple as that."

Arteta's Spurs counterpart Antonio Conte led the criticism of the derby postponement.

"It was for sure a strange decision," Conte said on Tuesday, "My feeling is that when there is a situation to play, we have to play and not postpone games for injuries or for international duty.

"We have a big problem to solve with Covid but only about this situation can you decide to postpone.

"This is the first time in my life - and I have a bit of experience in football - to see this decision. In this way, anything can happen."

But speaking ahead of Thursday's Carabao Cup semi-final second leg with Liverpool, Arteta fired back, "We will defend our club with teeth and nails.

"We’re not going to get anybody damaging our name or trying to spread lies."

He added, "I think more than hate there is a lot of respect for Arsenal and that comes from the history of the club, how it’s always acted and how it’s always conducted itself.

"We know we did the right thing. We worked with the Premier League and the FA to make that decision. If anything we’ve been very honest at least."

The Arsenal manager also confirmed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, having been unable to play a single minute for Gabon.

The former Gunners captain contracted COVID-19, and was then diagnosed with heart lesions.

"He's in London," Arteta revealed regarding Aubameyang's status, "Now he's going through some examinations because we haven't had any clarity from the Gabon national team about the reasons why he's come back.

"It's our obligation to make sure he's in a good condition and there's no issues related to that."

Asked if Aubameyang could play for the club again, Arteta responded, "He contracted Covid and then the national team decided to bring him back here.

"We need to make sure the player's health is in the best possible condition and then we'll see what happens."

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