Tottenham Hotspur have said they are “extremely surprised” with the Premier League’s decision to call off Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal, adding that they believe the rules set out regarding fixture postponements due to Covid-19 cases are not being followed as intended.
The Premier League confirmed they had accepted Arsenal’s request to postpone the fixture on Saturday, with the depleted Gunners without a host of players due to Covid, injury, suspension and some on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Spurs released their response later in the afternoon, expressing their anger at the decision to postpone the fixture, which appears to be influenced predominantly by Arsenal’s injury problems rather than cases of Covid-19.
“We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved,” Tottenham said in a statement.
“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. It is important to have clarity and consistency on the application of the rule.
“Yet again fans have seen their plans disrupted at unacceptably short notice. We shall once again send food deliveries to the local food banks to avoid unacceptable waste. We are sincerely sorry for our fans - some of whom will have travelled great distances.”
The Premier League’s decision to accept Arsenal’s request was also criticised by former Manchester United defender and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who said all teams in the top flight should be made to fulfil fixtures from now on following the latest postponement.
“What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team,” Neville said. “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 Covid cases. It’s wrong.
“Also why has the decision been delayed until today when the request was last night at 6.30pm. Fans will be setting off from all over the place and will be in limbo!”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said on Friday that it was the club’s “intention is always to play” but Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun have left on loan this month to join Roma and Middlesbrough respectively while the club’s Under-23s were able to play out a 1-1 draw with West Ham in Premier League 2 on the same day.
Martin Odegaard was absent for the Gunners’ Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Liverpool due to Covid-19 while Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu were missing due to injuries. Granit Xhaka received a red card during the 0-0 draw, ruling him out of Sunday’s match, and Cedric Soares suffered an injury with Arsenal already without Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to their international commitments.
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.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies