Sunday, January 16, 2022

Premier League cancels North London derby due to ‘Covid, injuries and Afcon’

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Arsenal filed a request to abandon the game on Friday night after only 12 first-team outfield players were available to choose from

The north London derby was due to take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday but it is the 20th Premier League game this season to be canceled instead.

Arsenal’s request to postpone Sunday’s game against Tottenham was successful after the Premier League felt Mikel Arteta did not have enough first-team players available for the game.

A Premier League statement released 26 hours before the game was scheduled to kick off said: “As Arsenal have fewer than the required number of players available for the game (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), the board accepted the Association’s application.

“The decision is the result of a combination of Covid-19, existing and recent injuries and players playing internationally at the Africa Cup of Nations. All clubs can request a postponement if Covid-19 infections are a factor in their request.

“The league apologizes for the inconvenience and disruption caused to fans who would have attended or watched the game – we fully recognize that postponements disappoint clubs and fans alike.”

Mikel Arteta had just 12 first-team outfield players available for the game after a number of players including Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney suffered blows and Granit Xhaka was sent off in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield .

The Gunners also have four players in the Africa Cup of Nations – Thomas Partey (Ghana), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast) and Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang, while Martin Odegaard tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.

However, pundits and rival fans were quick to point out that Arsenal loaned out two first-team players last week – Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who joined Roma, and Folarin Balogun, who joined Middlesbrough.

Speaking on Friday Night Football after Arsenal made their application to the Premier League, Gary Neville said games should only be canceled in “extraordinary circumstances”.

“I honestly believe that all teams, not just in the Premier League but in the EFL, need to be made to play games,” he began. “[Folarin] Balogun is on loan, [Ainsley] Maitland Niles is on loan [Granit] Xhaka has a red card. It’s not anyone else’s fault. We cannot cancel games.

“If only it was due to Covid and exceptional circumstances where 10 or 15 players were out… but we’re now talking about teams over the past few weeks where there’s no doubt they’ve canceled games depending on who they think they have the best squad or team to win a game. It has to stop.

“I have to say this is not a dig at Arsenal, I should have spoken [about this] a few weeks ago. Manchester United and other teams have 30-40 players in their roster. I don’t have that they can’t get 14, 15, 16 players together.

Jamie Carragher added: “Gary is right, it’s about the Premier League as a whole, it’s not about attacking Arsenal. Every club did that. No other league in Europe does that, certainly not in these big leagues [France, Germany, Italy and Spain].”

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