Tottenham ‘extremely surprised’ after Arsenal granted postponement

Tottenham have been left furious after the Premier League accepted Arsenal’s request to call off Sunday’s north London derby, believing rules regarding Coronavirus-related postponements have been manipulated to create “unintended consequences”.

Arsenal would have been without at least 15 first-teamers for their visit to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and requested the postponement because they felt they would be unable to satisfy the league’s criteria for fulfilling a fixture. At the time of the league’s decision Martin Ødegaard was the only one of those players known to have Covid-19, although at least one more squad member is understood to have tested positive on Saturday. Injuries and a four-strong contingent at the Africa Cup of Nations formed the core of Arsenal’s request and, in a strongly worded statement, Spurs criticised the rules’ inconsistency.

“We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved,” the statement read. “We ourselves were disqualified from the European Conference League after a significant number of Covid cases meant we needed to reschedule a fixture [against Rennes] and our application to move our Leicester fixture [on 16 December] was not approved – only for it to be subsequently postponed when Leicester applied.

“The original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by Covid cases, resulting in depleted squads that when taken together with injuries would result in the club being unable to field a team. We do not believe it was the intent to deal with player availability unrelated to Covid.

“We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule. It is important to have clarity and consistency on the application of the rule. Yet again fans have seen their plans disrupted at unacceptably short notice.”

The league’s guidance, which was adapted in December amid the spike of Omicron cases, says criteria to apply for postponement include: “Where a club has been unable to field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper for a match due to Covid-19 infections, injuries, illness and/or those isolating.” Beyond their Covid cases, Arsenal are missing at least eight players with injury. Granit Xhaka would also have been absent through suspension, although that was not a factor in the league’s decision.

There is a sense at Spurs and other rivals for top-four places that Arsenal are pushing the rules to the limit. The Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, responded: “It’s much better for me not to answer the question,” when asked about the postponement, but the Premier League has arguably set a precedent that was impossible to unravel. When Leicester’s match at Everton, scheduled for 11 January, was called off the league cited “Covid-19 cases, injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations” as the contributing factors. The same three reasons were given in justifying the derby’s postponement, with the difference that “existing and recent injuries” were cited.

One element of Arsenal’s stance is that they have had to deal with 11 Covid-19 cases in their first team since 21 December and there have been knock-on effects in terms of fitness, player welfare and pressure on their squad. They depleted their resources, however, by sending Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun out on loan this month.

This is their third game to be postponed in the last four weeks: Covid cases at Wolves forced a Premier League game scheduled for 28 December to be called off, while their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool was controversially moved after a spate of cases among Jürgen Klopp’s squad that turned out to be false positives.

Related posts

Leave a Comment