Derby postponed as COVID cripples Arsenal

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Mikel Arteta's side asked the Premier League to reschedule the match as it said it would not have the minimum requirement of 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper.

Arsenal lodged the appeal after Martin Odegaard tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday (AEDT). Under Premier League rules, clubs can apply for a match to be postponed "if COVID-19 infections are a factor".

The Gunners were also set to be without the suspended Granit Xhaka and the injured Cedric Soares, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

They are also missing four players because of Africa Cup of Nations commitments, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe with their countries at the event in Cameroon.

An Arsenal statement released on Saturday read: "We are disappointed to announce that Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur has been postponed.

"We know how much this match means to our fans around the world, but the Premier League has made the decision to postpone the match, due to many players across our squad currently being unavailable as a result of COVID-19, existing and recent injuries, in addition to players away with their countries at AFCON.

"We apologise to our fans for any disappointment and inconvenience caused."

The decision to postpone the game came a few days after Burnley successfully appealed to have its match with Leicester City rearranged because of COVID-19 cases and injuries, the Clarets having also sold striker Chris Wood to Newcastle United this week to leave them further short on numbers.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, whose side had a request to move its match with Wolverhampton Wanderers last month rejected, said on Friday he would be "very angry" if it emerged that rules around postponements were not being applied consistently.

"We are doing everything to make games happen and we were made to play when we thought maybe we should not. So I can only strongly hope the rules are the same for everybody," Tuchel said.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville tweeted on Sunday: "What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team.

"The Premier League must stop this now, draw a line in the sand and say all games go ahead unless you have an exceptional amount of CV [COVID] cases. It's wrong."


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