This Premier League season has been somewhat of a bizarre one.
We have seen a huge number of fixtures called off due to covid cases at clubs, something that was a relative rarity before this campaign. It feels as though almost every team in the division has requested to have a game postponed at this stage, sometimes in somewhat controversial circumstances.
Arsenal are the latest club to request such a postponement, asking that their North London Derby with Spurs due to take place tomorrow be pushed further down the line due to a huge number of absences at the club. However, it seems only one of those is down to a confirmed covid-19 case, with others missing due to injury, suspension, or international commitments.
Mikel Arteta's side have been widely criticised for this move, with some claiming the non-covid absences should not be taken into consideration when it comes to postponing a fixture.
It also worth noting that Arsenal are not the first club to ask for a fixture to be called off in such circumstances, something Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher feel needs to stop.
Speaking on Sky Sports last night, they said the Premier League must follow the lead of other major European leagues and force these clubs to field youth players in order to fulfil fixtures, unless in absolutely exceptional circumstances where there has been a major covid outbreak in a squad.
🗣 "I honestly believe that all teams must be made to play their fixtures"
🗣 "We're talking about teams calling games off based on if they think they have their best squad... it's got to stop"@GNev2 and @Carra23 share their thoughts on recent postponements 💬 pic.twitter.com/6qBsmLOjyM
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 14, 2022
Neville: I should have spoken out about this three or four weeks ago when Manchester United got their fixtures called. I honestly believe that all teams, not just in the Premier League but also the EFL now, must be made to play their fixtures.
[Folarin] Balogun has gone on loan, [Ainsley] Maitland-Niles has gone on loan, [Granit] Xhaka has got a red card. That is the fault of nobody else, we can't be calling fixtures off.
If it was purely down to covid and there were exceptional circumstances where there were 10 or 15 players out, but we're now talking about teams for the last few weeks where there is no doubt that they've been calling games off based on whether they think they've got the best squad or best team to win a game.
It has got to stop. That is not a dig at Arsenal, I should have spoken out three or four weeks ago. Manchester United and other teams have got 30 or 40 players in their squad, I'm not having that they can't get 15 or 16 players together.
For me it should be rejected, without knowing the exact details. Unless a whole load of covid cases come in today at Arsenal I feel having played last night at Liverpool, and played fantastically well by the way, this has to stop and teams have to play.
Carragher: I don't want this to be about Arsenal. This is about the Premier League as a whole and it's not a dig at Arsenal, we're just talking about them on the back of being the latest club, every club has done this.
No other league in Europe is doing this, certainly in the big leagues. Bayern Munich played a 16-year old in the last game, that tells you where they are.
Why can't we do that? Why can't our young players be given an opportunity in these circumstances? Everyone is in the same boat and I'm exactly with Gary. If it's an outbreak of covid and it has decimated the squad then I can understand, but if it's AFCON, players being out with regular injuries, that's got nothing to do with it.
You've got U23 squads and younger players as well, this is an opportunity for them to get a chance. I know there is a lot riding on Premier League games, I totally understand that, but at this moment there is no doubt that teams up and down the country are taking advantage of the situation.
As Neville and Carragher pointed out, this is far from a direct attack on Arsenal. A number of clubs, including the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, have had games called off in questionable circumstances in recent weeks.
The Premier League will have to take a stand on this matter at some point, with the number of fixtures that need to be played before the end of the campaign quickly starting to pile up.