Premier League agree to Arsenal request to postpone north London derby

LONDON : Arsenal's north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday has been postponed because their squad has been depleted by COVID-19 infections, injuries and players away at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Premier League said on Saturday.

Arsenal "reluctantly" asked the league on Friday to postpone the derby, citing the number of players that are currently unavailable.

"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 (for a postponement)," the Premier League said in a statement.

Twenty one Premier League matches have now been postponed in little more than a month since the surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka was ruled out of Sunday's match after picking up a red card in Thursday's 0-0 draw at Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final first leg, while Cedric Soares, Bukayo Saka and Calum Chambers all sustained injuries.

Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on international duty in Africa, while Norwegian Martin Odegaard has tested positive for COVID-19.

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Arsenal are fifth on 35 points after 20 matches, two points above sixth-placed rivals Tottenham, who have two games in hand.

In a statement Arsenal said: "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 decision to postpone the game robbed Sky Sports of its prime time Sunday fixture and commentator and pundit Gary Neville believes clubs are now abusing the Premier League rule.

"What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team," he said on Twitter. "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."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Helen Popper and Christian Radnedge)

Artmotion Asia

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