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Arteta on… the latest on William Saliba

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There was much talk on social media about why William Saliba wasn’t in our squad on Thursday night at Liverpool.

So why was the French defender not included?
 
“He had a year last year where Arsenal loaned him to St Etienne and that was a transition year for him,” Mikel Arteta said.
 
“For many reasons, that wasn’t the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries, some personal injuries and also with COVID and the French league getting cancelled, he didn’t have that year.
 
“He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to give him the best transitional year for him to have the player we want in our future.”

It was quite a day for Bukayo Saka on Thursday.

First he received his first call-up to the senior England squad, then he impressed once more as we beat Liverpool on penalties to reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
 
“I’m extremely happy with him – he totally deserves that chance,” Mikel Arteta said afterwards. “He’s a really humble boy who’s willing to learn every single day.
 
“He works really hard and he has an incredible talent. It’s a combination of everything you need to be successful and I think that call-up is going to fill him with confidence even more, and I’m really happy for him.
 
“That ability, versatility and unpredictability that he gives to the team is special. As well, the way he reads the different situations in areas that we want to provoke during games and then also the personality that he plays with.
 
“He comes here to Anfield and he wants every ball, he works for every challenge and I think he put in a really good performance today.”

Played four, won three, lost just one.

Mikel Arteta’s record against Liverpool since taking charge is one to be proud of – and he was delighted as we won at Anfield on penalties to reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
 
“To come to this stadium and beat them, it’s a great feeling,” our manager told Arsenal.com. “I am extremely proud of the players, the performance they put in individually and how the competed in the game, and collectively as well when some of them haven’t played many minutes… the way they handled certain situations and helped each other on the pitch.
 
“It is incredible. For me, [Liverpool] are the best team in Europe and I still believe there is a big gap between them and us at the moment, but we are trying too minimise that gap and compete in every game against them and give ourselves the best chance.
 
“Today, we read some situations much better than on Monday. I think the level of aggression that we played with today was phenomenal – you have to match them on that if you want any chance and then as well the courage to play the moments that are right to play against them. I am extremely happy.”

When Nicolas Pepe swung in an inviting cross midway through the second half at Anfield on Thursday night, Rob Holding thought his moment of glory had arrived.

Our centre back rose high but his firm header was saved by Adrian – although it didn’t cost us as we won the game on penalties.
 
“It was one of those where I saw it coming at me, it landed on my head and I was thinking the headlines tomorrow would be that Rob scored the winner!” Holding told Arsenal.com. “I just headed it too well and directly at the keeper. Maybe next time I’ll get on the scoresheet.
 
“It’s always nice to win here. It’s very rare that it happens because they are such a good team and Monday night showed how difficult it is to come here and get a result. I’m happy to keep a clean sheet and if I’d have scored that header it would’ve been a nice win but we went to penalties and got the job done in the end.
 
“I think I was sixth [in line for a penalty] but then Joe said he felt good, so I said, ‘Go on then’. Let the young lad have it!”
 
Holding reserved praise for Bernd Leno, who delivered a superb performance both in normal time and the shoot-out to help us reach the quarter finals.
 
“He saved us a couple of times and that’s what we need,” he said. “It’s nice having a great goalkeeper like that behind you who you know is going to help you out when you need him. Then obviously on the shoot-out he saved a few as well, it’s a very good day for him.”

WHAT HAPPENED

 
We booked our place in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory at Anfield on Thursday night.
 
Bernd Leno – who made a series of fine stops during normal time – pulled off two saves in the shoot-out, before Joe Willock kept his nerve to send us through.
 
Just three days on from Monday’s Premier League clash at Anfield, Mikel Arteta made eight changes to his side for this clash and we made a confident start.
 
There were little more than seven minutes on the clock when we carved out our best opportunity of the opening period as Granit Xhaka’s superb pass set Nicolas Pepe free down the left.
 
The Ivorian entered the box and cut the ball back for Joe Willock, who found Eddie Nketiah but the striker hesitated as he tried to go around Adrian and the chance was gone.
 
In truth there was little of note during the first half, but right on the stroke of half time Leno was called into action to push away Diogo Jota’s header and Takumi Minamino’s follow-up hit the underside of the bar.
 
It was a let-off, and after the interval our goalkeeper had to be alert once again to get down low and palm away Virgil Van Dijk’s close-range effort.
 
Leno was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the second period, and was called into action on the hour mark to keep out Marko Grujic’s firm strike, and then again moments later to palm away Diogo Jota’s fierce effort.
 
But back we came, and we had a golden chance to take the lead as Pepe picked out Rob Holding in the area but Adrian pushed the centre back’s header away.
 
Neither side could make the breakthrough, and for the second year running our Carabao Cup fourth-round tie at Anfield would go to penalties.
 
Leno was once again the hero, saving from Divock Origi and then Harry Wilson, before Joe Willock converted the decisive spot kick to send us through.
 

THE PENALTY SHOOT OUT

 
Milner – GOAL
Lacazette – GOAL
Wijnaldum – GOAL
Cedric – GOAL
Minamino – GOAL
Elneny – MISS, saved
Origi – MISS, saved
Maitland-Niles – GOAL
Jones – GOAL
Pepe – GOAL
Wilson – MISS, saved
Willock – GOAL
 

WHAT IT MEANST

 
We’re into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
 

WHAT’S NEXT

 
It’s a quick turnaround for our next game, as we host Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
 
Then it’s the international break, before we return to action on October 17 with a trip north to take on Manchester City at the Etihad.