Why Arsenal are being treated unfairly with game postponement debacle
By James Whiffing
After Granit Xhaka picked up a two-game suspension following his red card against Liverpool on Thursday, Arsenal found themselves missing a grand total of 13 senior first team players for their huge clash against Spurs (which would have taken place on Sunday) due to a mixture of injuries, AFCON and COVID. Consequently, the Gunners put in a request to postpone the game, and were successful in the appeal. Given Mikel Arteta only had a single senior midfielder available in Sambi Lokonga at his disposal, and virtually no senior substitutes either, they had reasonable grounds for a postponement for a game of such magnitude.
As soon as Arsenal’s postponement request was accepted by the Premier League, rival fans were outraged and bewildered by the decision, with Arsenal having just two COVID cases.
However, this outrage bewildered myself as much as the request did to those fans. I really don’t understand why fans, players, managers and pundits alike are all jumping on Arsenal and criticising them for this, especially when the exact same thing has happened 20+ times this season already in the Premier League. The rules state that if a team cannot select 14 senior players in their team due to COVID and injuries, then the game can be postponed. Mikel Arteta had just 11 senior players to choose from to form a team to play in the North London Derby, therefore the club had every right to file a request to postpone the fixture.
Whilst, admittedly, the rules implemented by the Premier League with regards to postponing games should probably be changed to prevent such frequent postponement of games, Arsenal have not broken any rules and are simply doing what virtually every other team have done this season, which is use the rules to their advantage.
As previously mentioned, criticising Arsenal for postponing this game is simply ridiculous; even more so when you consider some other games and the small amount of time it took to call them off.
Arsenal vs Wolves, which was originally supposed to be played on December 28th, was cancelled because Wolves had just 2 COVID cases and 6 injuries.
Arsenal vs Liverpool was rescheduled, despite the club admitting to having many ‘false positive’ tests; the club had just one COVID case (Trent Alexander-Arnold) whilst having 4 injuries and 3 players out at AFCON.
Leicester vs Norwich was postponed because the Canaries had 4 COVID cases and 7 injuries.
Arsenal’s visit to Spurs was of course postponed due to the Gunners having 2 COVID cases, 7 injuries and 3 players playing at AFCON.
As stated, Liverpool even went as far as faking COVID cases to not play with a weakened squad; having a false positive COVID PCR test is supposedly a 1/1000 chance, so having several of them in a row is virtually impossible. Typically, the game was against Arsenal and the EFL, whose chairman was formerly the CEO of Liverpool, decided not to charge the club after an investigation into the situation.
With the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher slamming the Gunners for the postponement of the North London Derby, one of the only pundits to stand up for Mikel Arteta’s men is Micah Richards, who had his say on Sky Sports. He agreed that “when it’s Arsenal, everyone wants to lump in for some reason” and that “by the rules, they’ve done nothing wrong”. The former Manchester City defender also said that “if a club says they wouldn’t do it, they’re lying”.
With all this being said, the Premier League should really be looking to change their rules so that in the future, clubs cannot postpone games unless they physically cannot field a team because of a COVID outbreak.
For now, though, Arsenal have not broken any rules and the uproar across social media is unwarranted and highlights the double standards against the club.