Arsenal have asked the Premier League to postpone Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham after their squad was hit by a swathe of injuries and other absences.
The parties had been in discussions throughout the day regarding whether the derby would go ahead and Arsenal have formalised their request for it to be moved. As many as 14 first-teamers may be unable to take part and they believe the league’s criteria for fulfilling a fixture – that a side can name a matchday squad of 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper – cannot be met.
A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League has received a postponement request from Arsenal FC relating to their away match against Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 4.30pm on Sunday 16 January. The Premier League Board will meet tomorrow to review the application and inform both clubs and their fans of its decision.”
While Martin Ødegaard is understood to remain Arsenal’s only Covid-19 case, they have a raft of other concerns. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe and Sead Kolasinac missed the match at Anfield with injuries, and Bukayo Saka and Cédric Soares departed early after picking up knocks. Other players are also fitness worries, with Calum Chambers thought to be among them, and the pile-up of injuries since Thursday night has swayed Arsenal to request a call-off.
Rival clubs may be unimpressed given the rest of Arsenal’s problems are rather more self-inflicted. Granit Xhaka is suspended after his red card against Liverpool while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey and Nicolas Pépé are away at the Africa Cup of Nations. They allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun to depart on loan this month and were still able to name a full bench on Thursday night, even if four of their substitutes were members of a well-stocked under-21 squad.
Should the request be granted they may be open to accusations of playing the system, but the reverse argument will be that Arsenal have been inconvenienced by questionable postponements in the past. Thursday’s game was originally to have been played a week previously until Liverpool requested its postponement on account of Covid-19 cases, but Jürgen Klopp later revealed many of them turned out to be false positives.
Arsenal said: “We have reluctantly taken this step but we have many players currently unavailable across our squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players away with their countries at Afcon.”