Gunners ask to postpone the north London derby with Tottenham

In a move seemingly unfathomable in past seasons, Tottenham Hotspur may be looking at a fourth postponed match, as Arsenal petition the Premier League. 

An idea that started floating around the internet the moment Granit Xhaka picked up a straight red card has come to fruition. Arsenal has requested Sunday’s north London derby with Tottenham be postponed due to a limited squad.

Is Arsenal unable to field a team vs Tottenham?

According to the BBC, Arsenal reluctantly petitioned the league over positive Covid cases, injuries, and absences due to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. While these are all true; reports are Arsenal has one positive Covid case, which would seem unlikely to cause a problem. It is unclear if injuries or international absences will matter in this regard but the Covid case(s) do.

The four AFCON absences are certainly real – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyand, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey, and Nicolas Pepe – but Arsenal is not the only team with players in the competition. Further, as a Tottenham supporter, no one cut Spurs any slack when their South American players were unavailable due to quarantine restrictions, which is actually noted in the rules.

Appendix 17 of the Premier League Handbook is not exactly an easy read and there are a number of exceptions to each relevant policy around postponements.

The big thing to keep in mind is that Arsenal will not have permission granted if 14 or more players are available “on its Squad list”. What counts as a player on the squad list has a lot of variances and really depends.

For example, whether or not an Under 21 player counts on as part of the squad list depends on their experience and whether or not they have made any first-team appearances for Arsenal or while on loan with another EFL club.

Ultimately, it may be that last idea, “loan” that is most significant in all of this. Despite not having four players to AFCON, at least one first-team Arsenal player, Ainsley Maitland-Niles has been loaned out for the rest of the season. Does a loan and Xhaka’s red card really put Arsenal under the 14 and if so should that be acceptable?

In a season where we have seen Covid and snow lead to postponements for Spurs, getting a game postponed because your opponent sold a player and another got a red card to go under the minimum number would take the cake.  Just not any cake we Tottenham fans would care to taste.