Tottenham anger as Arsenal’s request to postpone north London derby is granted

Tottenham have expressed their anger and frustration that Arsenal’s request to have Sunday’s north London derby postponed was granted by the Premier League.

The Gunners, who played out a goalless draw with Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, made an application to the Premier League on Friday due to a host of players being unavailable.

A mixture of coronavirus, injuries, suspension and players being away at the Africa Cup of Nations led to Arsenal “reluctantly” taking the step to ask for the match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to be called off.

Following the confirmation on Saturday of that being granted, Tottenham released a statement in which they said “we may now be seeing unintended consequences” in terms of Premier League guidance on postponements, and stressed the importance of having “clarity and consistency on the application of the rule”.

The statement on the club’s official website said: “We regret to announce that Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal has been postponed.

“This follows an application from Arsenal to the Premier League on the basis of a combination of Covid, existing and recent injuries and players on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. We are extremely surprised that this application has been approved.

“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 had earlier released a statement that read: “Following a request from Arsenal FC, the Premier League Board met today and regrettably agreed to postpone the club’s away fixture against Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 4:30pm 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.

Granit Xhaka was ruled out of Sunday's game by suspension after being sent off against Liverpool on Thursday (Peter Byrne/PA).
Granit Xhaka was ruled out of Sunday’s game by suspension after being sent off against Liverpool on Thursday (Peter Byrne/PA)

“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.”

Martin Odegaard was absent for the Liverpool match 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.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun have left on loan to join Roma and Middlesbrough respectively. Boss Mikel Arteta on Friday said Arsenal’s “intention is always to play”, while the club’s Under-23s were able to take on West Ham in Premier League 2 that day.

Shortly after the news of the postponement, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville posted a message on Twitter that said: “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.”

Saturday’s top-flight match between Burnley and Leicester had already been postponed on Friday due to the Clarets being unable to raise a team, while in the Women’s Super League, Arsenal have confirmed the request of opponents Reading to have their match on Sunday rearranged had been granted by the Football Association, with Everton v Chelsea having already been postponed due to Covid-19 issues in the hosts’ camp.