London (AFP) – Tottenham were left fuming after Sunday’s north London derby was postponed when the Premier League accepted depleted Arsenal’s request to cancel the fixture.
Mikel Arteta’s side made the request on Friday after losing a host of players to Covid-19, injury, suspension and the African Cup of Nations.
Martin Odegaard missed Thursday’s League Cup semi-final first-leg draw at Liverpool due to Covid while Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu had been ruled out through injury.
Cedric Soares was forced off early at Anfield, with Bukayo Saka also taking a knock as Granit Xhaka’s first-half red card further depleted Arteta’s ranks.
As if that wasn’t enough, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Tottenham were frustrated by the decision after suffering their own virus woes earlier this season.
Antonio Conte’s side were eliminated from the Europa Conference League after being forced to postpone their group-stage match against Rennes due to a Covid outbreak.
With no dates to rearrange the fixture, Rennes were awarded the points and Tottenham crashed out.
“We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved,” a Tottenham statement said.
“We ourselves were disqualified from the European Conference League after a significant number of COVID cases meant we needed to reschedule a fixture and our application to move our Leicester fixture 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.”
– ‘We know how much this means’ –
Confirming that the season’s second meeting of the bitter rivals would have to be rearranged, the Premier League had said: “Following a request from Arsenal, the Premier League Board met today and regrettably agreed to postpone the club’s away fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 16:30 GMT on Sunday 16 January.
“With Arsenal having fewer than the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), the Board accepted the club’s application.
“The decision is a result of a combination of COVID-19, existing and recent injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. All clubs are able to apply for a postponement if COVID-19 infections are a factor in their request.”
An Arsenal statement added: “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.”
Burnley’s Premier League match against Leicester on Saturday was postponed after the Clarets were left with an insufficient number of players to fulfil the fixture.
There have now been a total of 21 top-flight matches postponed due at least in part to the virus since December.
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