Arsenal’s clash with north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday has been postponed after the Premier League accepted the depleted Gunners’ 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 said to be surprised at Arsenal’s request because they believed the clubs had the same number of coronavirus cases.
But on Saturday the Premier League confirmed that the season’s second meeting of the bitter rivals would be rearranged.
“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,” a Premier League statement said.
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.
“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 Premier League statement added.
“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.
“The Premier League’s postponement rules are designed to protect the wellbeing of players and staff, while maintaining the sporting integrity of the competition.”