The North London Derby won't be going ahead on Sunday following Arsenal's request to postpone the match due to absences from COVID, a rash of injuries, and international duty with players at the Africa Cup of Nations. Arsenal announced Saturday that the Premier League had accepted their request to postpone the match. While Arsenal did play Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Thursday, drawing the match with ten men, they lost Granit Xhaka to a red card along with Bukayo Saka and Cedric Soares to injuries during the match.
These losses would bring them down to 11 senior outfield players, well below the Premier League threshold of 13 that is needed for a postponement. The derby was shaping up to be a battle of a team with no midfield facing off against a team with no defense as Tottenham are without Eric Dier, Cristian Romero, Son Heung-Min, and others.
Sergio Reguilon has also been nursing niggles that have caused him to miss the past few fixtures. While Arsenal only has one confirmed COVID case in Martin Odegaard, it's important to note that league requirements take into account a combination of infections and injuries which is similar to Leicester City's postponement versus Everton.
Arsenal did recently loan Ainsley Maitland-Niles to Roma and Florian Balogun to Middlesbrough but with neither player featuring much for the first team, when opportunities arose for them to get minutes it certainly made sense for Arsenal to act on it. Players can't be kept around on the off chance that they may be used when they are clearly out of the head coach's favor even if they are sent packing in the middle of an international tournament.
Tottenham has released a statement in response to this postponement, objecting to the league's decision and saying, "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."
They do have a fair point that attempting to reschedule a European match should take precedent when it comes to postponements but for Tottenham, one wasn't granted until Leicester City had enough COVID cases to fall below the threshold of available players. The statement continues to bring up the intention of the guidance which was to alleviate risk during mass COVID outbreaks pointing to the lack of clarity that the Premier League has created around when a match should be postponed. Arsenal were on the reverse side of that coin only ten days ago when the first leg of their EFL Cup final against Liverpool was postponed due to Liverpool's request.
The league guidance includes a point that it is enough to postpone a match, Where a club has been unable to field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper for a match due to COVID-19 infections, injuries, illness and/or those isolating. This has been the sticking point as it has now led to two matches being postponed due to injuries which are part of the game and one of Arsenal's absences was due to bad decisions by Granit Xhaka which shouldn't factor into the count.
It's unknown what the league can do as they've already tainted the integrity of postponements by allowing these but it is clear that something needs to be done due to loopholes being created that shouldn't exist. There is also the impact on traveling fans that in most postponements has been tossed by the wayside when people travel from long distances for these matches.
With this postponement, Tottenham has two additional fixtures to make up against Brighton and Burnley while Arsenal has three where they will face Chelsea, Liverpool, and Wolves. Tottenham will still be scheduled to take on Leicester City on Wednesday while Arsenal's next fixture will be leg two of the EFL Cup against Liverpool on Thursday. They will next play in the Premier League on Sunday the 23rd versus Burnley.