LONDON — Arsenal coach Unai Emery defended Matteo Guendouzi after his red card nearly cost Arsenal a victory in the Carabao Cup, saying the teenage midfielder is playing with the “spirit that I want.”
Guendouzi helped set up Arsenal’s first goal in the 2-1 win over Blackpool but was handed a second yellow card for pulling down Jordan Thompson after 55 minutes, handing Blackpool a lifeline.
Paudie O’Connor pulled a goal back for the visitors, but Arsenal saw the game out after Blackpool were also reduced to 10 men.
And Emery refused to criticize the 19-year-old Guendouzi for showing a bit of inexperience.
“He’s playing well, and he’s playing with one thing that is very important, with spirit and competitiveness,” Emery said.
“I don’t know if it’s experience. I think he’s playing with the spirit that I want. Today and in every match. We spoke in the dressing room at half-time that it was very important with control, but I don’t think he lost control in this action.
“He’s playing the way the action is demanding. And the red card is one circumstance in the game.”
The suspension means Guendouzi will miss Saturday’s crucial Premier League game against Liverpool, but Emery said he is confident in his other options.
“We have a lot of players who are looking forward to play and help us,” he said. ” And I’m going to prepare with other players and thinking we can have the performance for a big match on Saturday.”
Emery also had to defend goalkeeper Petr Cech after he nearly made a horrendous blunder to gift Blackpool an equaliser.
Cech tried to dribble the ball in the area but was dispossessed by a sliding challenge by Jay Spearing, who provided Nathan Delfouneso with an easy tap-in. However, Delfouneso was offside when the ball was played forward.
Emery urged Cech not to let the mistake affect him and also urged the crowd not to get jittery every time the veteran goalkeeper gets the ball.
“When you play with the goalkeeper, it’s normal when the centre-back is under pressure from the opposition that we need to play with the goalkeeper and continue building up our attacking moment,” Emery said. “And I want to give them confidence, give them calm. And it’s true, today after this mistake the supporters also [were nervous] when the ball arrived to him.
“It’s better to continue giving him and other players confidence to continue our style, our idea of the game. He has experience and also he can do well, and we are going to continue with this idea.”
Arsenal face archrival Tottenham next in the quarterfinals at the Emirates, which will make for a second North London Derby in December following a league clash.
Emery said he’s well aware of the long history between the two clubs and is looking forward to the challenge.
“For us it’s important to play here with our supporters at the Emirates. But this moment in this competition is a big, great moment for both [clubs],” he said. “But only one can win.”
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