covid-postponements:-the-impact-on-every-premier-league-club

Covid postponements: The impact on every Premier League club

ARSENAL

Number of games postponed by Covid: 1; Number of games played in December: 7

Arsenal were hit harder by Covid at the start of the season than they have been – so far at least – this winter. While Arsenal had a number of players missing at Norwich on Boxing Day, only one would be considered a first-team player. By comparison, they were without a clutch of regulars on the first day of the season when a barely-recognisable team were beaten at Brentford.

Arsenal may even have welcomed Wolves’ request for their trip to the Emirates on Tuesday to be called off given it spared Mikel Arteta’s troops returning to action 43 hours after their victory at Norwich had ended. Instead, the Gunners now have a week off before facing Manchester City on New Year’s Day.

ASTON VILLA

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 5

Steven Gerrard was absent for the defeat by Chelsea on Boxing Day after testing positive for Covid, and would have also been out of their trip to Leeds on December 28, which was postponed on Boxing Day due to a Covid outbreak in the Leeds side. That game fell with far more notice than Villa’s home clash with Burnley, scheduled for December 18, which was postponed just over two hours before kick-off.

Villa are due to return to action at Brentford on January 2, live on Sky Sports, but no Carabao Cup or European commitments mean catching up on the two games missed should not be too tricky, although Gerrard admitted on December 22: “It’s very unpredictable and hard to cope.”

BRENTFORD

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 5

Bees boss Thomas Frank was vocal about the need to “break the chain” on the Covid crisis by introducing a circuit-break, speaking before the trip to Southampton on December 18 was postponed due to an outbreak in his squad. Brentford had also seen their home clash with Man Utd on December 14 postponed due to a number of cases in the United squad. But Frank’s side have played twice since then – in the Carabao Cup against Chelsea on December 22 and the Premier League at Brighton on Boxing Day – and have a game against Manchester City on December 29.

Just before Christmas, Frank changed and said it was “right” for the league to continue, as long as there was transparency over cases, and even admitted their own circuit-break from the two postponed games “helped massively”.

BRIGHTON

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 4

Brighton’s two games postponed could have easily been three. Manager Graham Potter revealed Albion were unsuccessful in their request for the December 15 clash with Wolves – a 1-0 loss – to be rearranged following a Covid-19 and injury crisis at the club. Brighton’s scheduled meeting with Tottenham on December 12 was postponed due to a Covid outbreak at the north London club, as was the trip to Man Utd on December 18 due to the Old Trafford side having only seven first-team players available.

Potter, like many Premier League managers, wants transparency, saying last week: “It would be better if it was more transparent but at the same time you’re talking about medical information so I don’t know how transparent that can be.” They are due to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 29, then Everton away on January 2.

BURNLEY

Number of games postponed by Covid: 3; Number of games played in December: 3

Burnley last played on December 12, since when Watford, Aston Villa and Everton have all successfully applied for their scheduled games against the Clarets to be postponed. As a result, Burnley are still yet to celebrate scoring a Premier League goal this month and have a fixture pile-up to come – with November’s game against Spurs losing out to bad weather, the Clarets have so far played 15 league games this term, three fewer than the likes of Chelsea and Man City.

CHELSEA

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Thomas Tuchel was unhappy the Premier League did not postpone Chelsea’s match against Wolves due to the Covid outbreak in his squad

Number of games postponed by Covid: 0; Number of games played in December: 8

Thomas Tuchel spoke out angrily about his side’s fixture list following Chelsea’s win at Aston Villa on Boxing Day, describing their itinerary as “unfair” and “not right”. Despite a number of Covid absentees through the month, Chelsea have not had a game called off – the league rejected their request for their match at Wolves to be postponed – and Tuesday’s encounter with Brighton will be their 10th in a month. “They [the Premier League] made us play and so we play,” complained Tuchel. “This cannot be the right way.”

CRYSTAL PALACE

Number of games postponed by Covid: 1; Number of games played in December: 4

Prior to their return on Boxing Day, Palace’s last game had been their home draw with Southampton on December 15. Palace’s request for their game at Tottenham to be postponed was rejected by the Premier League and there was surprise when Palace’s starting line-up then featured just one change from the side that had faced the Saints.

EVERTON

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 4

Everton initially had a request to postpone the Boxing Day clash at Burnley rejected, but further Covid positives added to a long list of injuries, prompting the Premier League to act. As well as having two games postponed – their clash at Leicester on December 19 also fell – Everton had to field a weakened side away at Chelsea on December 16, their last game played. But that depleted Everton side – Ellis Simms made his debut, while both Jonjoe Kenny and goalscorer Jarrad Branthwaite made their first Premier League starts of the season – earned a brilliant 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Their next game is against Newcastle on December 30 is at home.

LEEDS

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 4

Leeds’ game with Aston Villa on Tuesday December 28 was postponed due to Covid-19 cases and injuries in the Leeds squad, adding to Leeds’ trip to Liverpool on Boxing Day, which was also postponed. Managing director Angus Kinnear says Leeds United’s players and backroom staff are “99 per cent” fully vaccinated against Covid, but Leeds are another side with a lengthy injury list to add to Covid absentees.

They were without 10 first-team players for the visit of Arsenal on December 18, meaning Cody Drameh (20), Joe Gelhardt (19), Sam Greenwood (19) and Liam McCarron (20) all appeared. The club’s training ground was also shut over the Christmas period, but they are due to play Burnley at home on January 2.

LEICESTER

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 6

Brendan Rodgers’ side have already had a packed December due to Europa League and Carabao Cup ties, but games against Spurs at home on December 16 and Everton away on December 19 also fell due to positive Covid cases in the Foxes squad. Leicester’s form has not been great – it is just one win in six in all competitions, and the 6-3 reverse at Man City on Boxing Day prompted Rodgers to call this the period the “most challenging” of his managerial career, with injuries to defenders Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu, Ricardo Pereira, James Justin and Wesley Fofana adding to the woe.

“There’s no doubt this is a huge challenge,” said Rodgers. “We’re not getting the violins out. You see what we’re missing. The players aren’t available. Offensively we’re really good but if you’re missing the players [we are] it’s a real challenge.”

LIVERPOOL

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has once again called into question playing football on Boxing Day and December 28 and says players need help when it comes to the fixture schedule

Number of games postponed by Covid: 1; Number of games played in December: 7

Jurgen Klopp has been outspoken regarding the workload on players during the busy festive schedule, pointing out that the issues with Covid have only further intensified the problem.

Klopp’s side achieved a relatively comfortable victory over Newcastle on December 16 without Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, who along with Curtis Jones, tested positive for Covid on the morning of the game. However, their defence was exposed without their two central figures in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham on December 19. After that fixture, Klopp, who also could not select Thiago Alcantara due to Covid, said it had “become impossible for the Premier League to continue with its current fixture list”.

The subsequent postponement of Liverpool’s Boxing Day match with Leeds due to coronavirus issues within the Leeds squad gives those players additional time to get back up to speed before the trip to Leicester on December 28.

MANCHESTER CITY

Number of games postponed by Covid: 0; Number of games played in December: 7

Pep Guardiola has stayed out of the conversation regarding postponing games and potentially the league itself with the City boss encouraging his players and the public to adhere to all the health advice. His squad have seemingly dodged a mass breakout of the virus within their walls as Guardiola has steered City through a busy period showing relentless form that has taken them to the top of the Premier League following nine wins on the bounce, scoring 30 goals in the process. Guardiola did have to cancel his media duties ahead of the Newcastle game on Sunday December 19 after returning an inconclusive coronavirus test, but a subsequent test provided a negative result.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 5

Remarkably, Manchester United’s game against Newcastle was their first in 16 days – they had previously last played on December 11 in a 1-0 win at Norwich. Four players were reported to have tested positive after that game and, in addition to the pair of postponements that followed, United also had to close their Carrington training ground.

But after their prolonged break, the United squad now faces a frenetic week with the Newcastle trip followed by games against Burnley and Wolves on Thursday and Monday. “It feels like a new season is starting for Manchester United,” noted Gary Neville on Monday Night Football.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Number of games postponed by Covid: 0; Number of games played in December: 5

Eddie Howe described his squad as being “hit and stretched” by Covid and injuries ahead of the meeting with Manchester United for which Howe only named six outfield substitutes. The game was Newcastle’s first in over a week, but also the first in what will be a gruelling week: Everton on Thursday and Wolves on Sunday now follow.

But Newcastle’s relatively busy schedule in December has also distorted the picture at the bottom of the table – the Man Utd game was Newcastle’s 19th of the season whereas Burnley, the team closest to Newcastle in the league table, signed off for Christmas having played just 15.

NORWICH

Number of games postponed by Covid: 1; Number of games played in December: 4

A combination of Covid, illness and injuries led to Norwich’s game at West Ham being postponed a week before Christmas, but Dean Smith’s side have nevertheless been busy – playing five games between November 30, when they drew at Newcastle, and Boxing Day. The Canaries are next in action on Tuesday at Palace.

SOUTHAMPTON

Number of games postponed by Covid: 1; Number of games played in December: 5

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad could be considered to have benefited from a recent enforced break after their scheduled match at Brentford on December 18 was postponed due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the opposition camp. The Saints have managed to keep the virus at bay within their dressing room with Hasenhuttl revealing that his players are now changing in their cars and taking packed lunches to training in order to limit any transmission of Covid.

TOTTENHAM

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 5

Spurs were the first side to successfully request a Covid-related Premier League postponement when they had their game at Brighton on December 12 called off before their scheduled game at Leicester four days’ later followed suit. With bad weather also putting pay to November’s game at Burnley, Spurs have three league fixtures to shoehorn into their schedule in the new year alongside a double-header Carabao Cup semi-final. They will not, however, have to worry about Europa Conference League complications – after Covid absences also resulted in their game against Rennes being called off, Spurs were eliminated from the competition.

WATFORD

Number of games postponed by Covid: 3; Number of games played in December: 3

Watford last played in the Premier League on December 10 although, as it stands, they are due to return to action on Tuesday against West Ham. In the intervening period, three scheduled Watford games have been postponed, with their match at Burnley on December 15 called off two hours just before kick-off. “The decision was taken following guidance from medical advisers due to an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak within Watford’s squad,” said the Premier League. “As a result, the club has an insufficient number of first-team players available to fulfil the match.”

WOLVES

Number of games postponed by Covid: 2; Number of games played in December: 5

Wolves played their fifth game of December on the 19th of the month but that goalless draw at home to Chelsea proved to be their final action of 2021. The Boxing Day game against Watford at Molineux was postponed because of the visitors before a Covid-19 outbreak among Bruno Lage’s squad saw the trip to Arsenal on December 28 also called off. Six confirmed cases of Covid-19 among the Wolves squad put paid to that fixture.

Nobody can accuse the club of not doing all that it can to limit the impact of the virus. “Everyone in our building is fully vaccinated, which is the right thing to do,” said Lage earlier this month.

Which Premier League games have been called off?

Brighton vs Tottenham – Sunday December 12, Premier League

Brentford vs Man Utd – Tuesday December 14, Premier League

Burnley vs Watford – Wednesday December 15, Premier League

Leicester vs Tottenham – Thursday December 16, Premier League

Man Utd vs Brighton – Saturday December 18, Premier League

Southampton vs Brentford – Saturday December 18, Premier League

Watford vs Crystal Palace – Saturday December 18, Premier League

West Ham vs Norwich – Saturday December 18, Premier League

Aston Villa vs Burnley – Saturday December 18, Premier League

Everton vs Leicester – Sunday December 19, Premier League

Liverpool vs Leeds – Sunday December 26, Premier League

Wolves vs Watford Sunday December 26, Premier League

Burnley vs Everton Sunday December 26, Premier League

Leeds vs Aston Villa – Tuesday December 28, Premier League

Arsenal vs Wolves – Tuesday December 28, Premier League

When could postponed fixtures be played?

There currently appear to be 15 midweek slots where postponed games could be played in the new year – however, these often clash with Champions League and Europa League knockout rounds, as well as FA Cup and Carabao Cup ties.

There are some options. Could the Premier League’s two-week winter break at the end of January and start of February be scrapped? Or will teams be asked to play beyond the scheduled final weekend of the season, May 22?