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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Arteta calls for fairness as Covid runs riot in Premier League

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on Friday called for more clarity from the Premier League after a glut of coronavirus postponements, saying it was vital to maintain the fairness of the competition.

Only five games of the previously scheduled 10 are due to take place on Saturday and Sunday, taking the total number of postponed top-flight fixtures over the past week to nine.

The English Football League — which oversees the second, third and fourth tiers of the game — has also been badly hit as numbers of coronavirus cases rocket in Britain.

The BBC reported that Premier League clubs were due to meet on Monday to discuss the spiralling crisis, with the busy festive season approaching.

Even the matches that went ahead on Thursday were disrupted.

Liverpool were without Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Curtis Jones for their 3-1 win over Newcastle following suspected positive tests for Covid.

Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi missed their 1-1 draw with Everton after testing positive.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank, whose side have had matches with Manchester United and Southampton postponed, on Thursday led calls for the top flight to be suspended.

Arteta, whose Arsenal side are due to be in action at Leeds on Saturday, said Friday that decisions had to be based on what was best for the competition and the health of everybody involved.

Arsenal’s opening game of the season went ahead at Brentford even though they had a number of positive cases in the squad.

“We need more clarity on why those games are not being played and what you need to not have a game played, so you can maintain the fairness of the competition,” said Arteta.

“We have been here on the other side of the table (at the start of the season) where we had all the arguments in the world to not play a football match and we ended up playing it.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe, whose side are second from bottom of the Premier League, said he wanted the campaign to continue but only if it was fair for all the teams involved.

“I don’t think we want half the games played and half not played,” he said following his side’s defeat at Anfield. “The league really loses something if it becomes disjointed in terms of games played.

“When you start losing players to Covid then the worry is the competition becomes slightly unfair and I don’t think anyone wants to see that.

“A decision needs to be made to ensure integrity is maintained in the competition. I think it is on a knife edge.”

Figures released on Thursday by the English Football League revealed a quarter of players do not intend to be vaccinated against Covid.

Arteta, who contracted the virus at the start of the pandemic, accepts it remains a personal issue, but would encourage people to take up the vaccine.

“Health-wise, I hope we are doing everything we can to protect everybody,” he said.

“The vaccination is really important, first of all just in case you catch it, to prevent getting really ill, we have seen that obviously has been a massive help.

“But as well you see many other cases when they have had the vaccine and still caught it, so you don’t know.

“We try to do the right thing (at the club) and it (vaccination) is a really personal matter, but we try to educate.”

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