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Arsenal’s Sunday Match Against Tottenham Has Been Postponed

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The Premier League confirmed the decision to accept the Gunners’ request to call off the match due to the impact of injuries, Covid-19 and the Africa Cup of Nations on their squad.

League rules stipulate that matches must be played if 13 senior outfield players, including a goalkeeper, are available. However, Mikel Arteta has been hit since the Carabao Cup draw at Liverpool on Thursday.

Granit Xhaka was sent off at Anfield and would have been suspended for the North London derby, with Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe, Calum Chambers and Bukayo Saka also doubts. Sead Kolasinac and Cedric Soares were due to miss out through injury.

Along with the four players at the AFCON tournament, Martin Odegaard was expected to miss out due to Covid.

A club statement on Saturday confirmed: “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.”

The Premier League’s statement, also posted by Tottenham, added: “The league apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused to supporters who would have attended or watched the game – we are fully aware that postponements disappoint clubs and fans.

“The league aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is our priority. Where possible, the League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk.”

Spurs added: “Following a request from Arsenal FC, the Premier League Board met today and regrettably agreed to postpone the North London Derby, due to be played at 4:30pm on Sunday 16 January.”

Some had criticised Arsenal for seeking the postponement with the club having known for some time that the Cup of Nations was due to be held this month, before sending out Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun out on loan in recent weeks.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville stated on Friday: “I honestly believe that all teams, not just actually in the Premier League but the EFL now, must be made to play their fixtures.

“Balogun has gone on loan, Maitland-Niles has gone on loan, Xhaka’s got a red card. That’s not the fault of anyone else. We can’t be calling fixtures off. [Fair enough] if it was down to Covid and extraordinary circumstances where there were 10 or 15 players out.

“But we’re now talking about teams for the last few weeks where there’s no doubt they’ve been calling games off based on whether they think they have the best squad or best team to win a game. It’s got to stop.”

However, Arsenal legend Ian Wright felt Neville was being somewhat disingenuous with his criticism, tweeting in reply: “It’s not about Arsenal or the fans. It’s about no more Super Sunday on Sky!”

After the announcement, Neville wrote: “Game off. 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 [Covid] cases. It’s wrong.”

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