By Tony Attwood
Following Liverpool’s request for a match postponement for a group of players who seemingly tested positive one day and negative the next (the chances of which are so unlikely it is hard to find a serious statistician who will actually give the odds – although I’ve had a bash, see below) Arsenal have requested that tomorrow’s game against Tottenham should be postponed.
Of course Arsenal are at a disadvantage in this because although most of the media that cover football have made no comment about the unprecedented Liverpool covid test results, a few are picking up on the story. Given that large numbers of footballing decisions are based not on the rules but how the matter will play out in terms of journalistic coverage, the League’s decision is uncertain.
The Premier League board is meeting this morning before making a final decision on the game.
Elsewhere the Gabonese Football Federation have said that the medics at the Africa Cup have discovered what appears to be a heart issue after contracting Covid with Aubameyang. If that proves to be so, that could be the end of his playing career.
But back to the homeland… As you will recall Arsenal had four under-23 players on the bench for the last Liverpudlian game, and then had Cedric Soares come off injured on 11 minutes, while reports in the media suggest that Bukayo Saka, Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney were also injured in the course of the match.
Martin Odegaard has had a positive test while Takehiro Tomiyasu, Sead Kolasinac and Emile Smith Rowe are also injured.
If the League abides by its own rules the game has to be played for, as with the EFL rules if a club has 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper from the 25 man squad, plus what are now being called “appropriately experienced under-21 players” they have to play. However the Sun argues that because Patino was selected against Forest he is now an appropriately experienced player and so the game has to go ahead.
Of course one of the problems is self-inflicted in that Arsenal have allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to go on loan to Roma and Folarin Balogun to go to Middlesbrough. The League, seemingly never a particular friend to Arsenal, will consider that if Arsenal were willing to let those players go, that is their own fault.
When he was asked about the situation Mr Arteta said rather enigmatically, “What is today very unlikely, tomorrow is likely to happen. It’s gone the other way for us when we were ready to play a match and it was cancelled twice because the other team had issues so it can go both ways. But our intention is always to play.”
Although Untold has had a load of abuse seemingly from Liverpool supporters (although one can never be sure these days) over our consideration of the Liverpool situation, and the fact that false positives are incredibly rare, others have started to express their anxiety about match postponements.
Ralph Hasenhuttl, manager of Southampton criticised the Premier League for “opening the door” to fixture postponements through allowing Liverpool to report players ill with covid and then suddenly not ill with covid, given the statistics that show false positive runs at about 0.7%. That would mean on average Liverpool would have had to have 750 positive cases to come up with five false positives, which in turn would have meant testing over 10,000 people.
Hasenhuttl said of Liverpool, “They have opened the door and you cannot be surprised that someone is walking through.” The others in this case relate to the postponement of Burnley’s match against Leicester City.
He is particularly arguing that if a game is postponed, players who were not with the club at the time of the original match being planned, should not be able to play in the rearranged fixture.
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