Arsenal have been successful in getting the north London derby postponed, much to the annoyance of Spurs and pretty much everybody else.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Martin Odegaard of Arsenal shoots during the warm up prior to the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal at American Express Community Stadium on October 02, 2021 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND: Martin Odegaard is a Covid-19 absentee, and one of many players likely unavailable for Sunday’s North London derby. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

On Friday, Dan Kilpatrick reported that Tottenham Hotspur were concerned that Arsenal would request to postpone Sunday’s North London derby, given their situation with Covid, injuries, and other absences.

Hilarious Arsenal + Tottenham available XIs values Kane at £0

It was then confirmed that Arsenal were indeed in talks with the Premier League over the fixture with a decision expected on Saturday. The Premier League certainly took their time about it, with journalists reporting the postponement before any official announcement came:

https://twitter.com/David_Ornstein/status/1482355262124085256

See also – Arsenal women’s game vs Reading postponed at Reading’s request

Arsenal statement

Arsenal finally released a statement at 2.30pm, saying, “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.

“We will update you when we have further information regarding the rearrangement of the fixture. Any tickets purchased for this fixture will be valid for the rescheduled date. All updates will be shared on Arsenal.com.”

Premier League statement

“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.

“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.

“The Premier League’s postponement rules are designed to protect the wellbeing of players and staff, while maintaining the sporting integrity of the competition. Club requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and adapted COVID-19 postponement guidance, implemented in light of the Omicron variant. The Board examines a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of COVID-19; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match. The detail within all applications is scrutinised by the League’s specialist staff before the Board makes its decision.

Arsenal request North London derby postponement

Arsenal said in a statement on Friday “We can confirm we have made an application to the Premier League for the postponement of Sunday’s north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

“We have reluctantly taken this step but we have many players currently unavailable across our squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players away with their countries at AFCON.”

Many pundits are mad that Arsenal are applying for a postponement, mostly because of injuries and Afcon rather than Covid, but the Premier League have already allowed Leicester to cite players being at Afcon as one of the reasons to postpone their game against Everton last week.

The pundits had nothing to say about that.

The precedent is set, regardless of what Spurs fans and everybody else thinks about it.

https://twitter.com/DailyCannon/status/1482060269450891272

That being said, the Premier League have rejected applications before, notably Everton ahead of Boxing Day, who had five out with Covid and 6 injuries, but they eventually gave in and postponed the game.

Chelsea also had an application rejected in December when they applied to have their game against Wolves pushed back when they had seven players out with Covid. They drew that game 0-0.

But, since then, we have seen a host of games postponed and no other rejections of requests that I can find. That is, of course, excluding the Arsenal games at the start of the season against Brentford and Chelsea when they had four and then five players out with Covi, although there is some debate over whether Arsenal asked to have those games moved or not.

According to the Premier League rules on postponements, a match will be postponed if a club cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper.

Assuming Cedric Soares, Emile Smith Rowe, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Sead Kolasinac remain injured, and Martin Odegaard’s Covid-19 positive leaves him absent too, here is the list of available outfield players from Arsenal’s 25-man Premier League squad:

  1. Calum Chambers
  2. Gabriel Magalhaes
  3. Rob Holding
  4. Alexandre Lacazette
  5. Pablo Mari
  6. Eddie Nketiah
  7. Albert Sambi Lokonga
  8. Kieran Tierney
  9. Ben White

You also have to count u21s who have made first-team appearances (not including the FA Cup third round).

For Arsenal, that’s Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Nuno Tavares, and Charlie Patino.

Miguel Azeez has also made a first-team appearance, but his recall from loan hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, so he’s seemingly unavailable for the match.

Miguel Azeez playing for Portsmouth (Photo via Azeez on Twitter)
Miguel Azeez playing for Portsmouth (Photo via Azeez on Twitter)

In total, that means Arsenal have 13 outfield players available. That wouldn’t be few enough to have the game called off.

But if anyone else picks up Covid-19, or if (for example) Saka doesn’t recover from the knock that forced him off against Liverpool, then Arsenal could request a postponement.

The fixture is very much in the balance right now.

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