Sunday’s north London derby was postponed after the Premier League agreed to a request from Arsenal, whose side has been badly affected by injuries and a host of other problems, to cancel the match.
Arsenal could have missed more than 14 first-team players for their visit to Tottenham and requested a delay because they felt they would not be able to meet the league’s standards to achieve a match. Clubs can apply if they do not have 13 players and a goalkeeper available, and after Arsenal announced their intention on Friday evening, the decision to postpone was confirmed on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the 20th in a series of top flight delays in recent weeks spurred by the coronavirus outbreak. Arsenal’s only known current Covid-19 case is Martin Ødegaard but league rules allow other factors to play a role. When Leicester’s match at Everton, scheduled for January 11, was called off, the Premier League cited “Covid-19 cases, injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations” as the contributing factors.
Arsenal are believed to be missing at least eight injured players and have four more to represent their countries in Cameroon. Granit Xhaka could also have been absent through the comment, but that was understandably not relevant to this case.
In a statement, the Premier League said: “At the request of Arsenal FC, the Premier League Board of Directors met today and unfortunately agreed to postpone the team’s away match against Tottenham Hotspur, scheduled for 4.30pm on Sunday 16 January.
“With Arsenal having less than the required number of players for the match (13 away players and one goalkeeper), the board agreed to the club’s request. The decision is the result of a combination of Covid-19, current and recent injuries and players on international assignments at the Africa Cup of Nations. All clubs apply for a postponement if a Covid-19 infection is a factor in their application.
“The League apologizes for the inconvenience and disruption caused to fans who were to attend or watch the match – we are fully aware that postponements disappoint clubs and fans. The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements must sometimes be made at short notice, because safety is the Our priority. Where possible, the League will endeavor to keep fans updated if games become at risk.”