Arsenal have been accused of ‘running scared of Tottenham’ after a successful request to postpone Sunday’s north London derby.
Big questions are being asked of the Premier League’s decision, with the Gunners only hit with one positive COVID-19 case and claims their squad crisis is partly self-inflicted.
The crunch derby clash was officially called off on Saturday afternoon, a little over 24 hours before the scheduled 4:30pm kick off.
Arsenal cited players being unavailable due to COVID, injuries and being away with their countries at the Africa Cup of Nations.
However, it is understood the north London club only have one confirmed positive coronavirus case, midfielder Martin Odegaard.
Granit Xhaka was suspended for the game following his red card in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool, while two players are away at AFCON and both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folorin Balogun were allowed to leave the club over the past week on loan.
talkSPORT host Adrian Durham was live on air with two former Arsenal players, Ray Parlour and Adrian Clarke, when the news broke.
And the veteran broadcaster was left gobsmacked that the Gunners’s request to call the game off was granted, and sent a quite remarkable accusation their way.
“Let me say this to you, Ray Parlour – there is another angle to this story,” the talkSPORT host began.
“It’s the north London derby and to a neutral this looks like Arsenal, for some reason, are running scared of Spurs.
“Unless things have changed in the last 24 hours, Arsenal have one COVID case in Martin Odegaard, Xhaka is suspended, two first-team squad players were allowed to leave the club on loan this week, and that’s a decision Arsenal made to let them go.
“There are rumours there are two more COVID cases… but does it feel right?
“Arsenal’s Under-23s played and drew 1-1 with West Ham on Friday night, it was a very young side but they are still players, one of them is an 18-year-old full Mexico international, there are 20-year-olds in there as well, it’s not as if they are 16-year-old kids.
“And of course Jack Wilshere has been training with the club, he could be signed up as a player rather than doing Drivetime on talkSPORT – that might be an idea!”
One man who definitely agrees with that verdict is fellow talkSPORT host and former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara, who branded Arsenal ‘Bottlejobs FC’ and called the Premier League a ‘disgrace’ over the decision.
But both Parlour and Clarke defended their former club, insisting the Premier League rules over game postponements are to blame, saying they are being ‘abused’ by clubs across the English top flight.
Asked if the situation sits well with him, Invincibles legend Parlour said: “Certainly it’s a bit of a shock.
“What’s happened so far this season has been really unpredictable, 22 games have been called off, so why is everyone suddenly jumping on the bandwagon with Arsenal? They’re just trying to use the system like every other club has used.
“Whether it’s right or wrong is another matter. The Premier League have really got to look at this a lot more closely, and make it an even field with every club.
“They made a decision and said if you’ve got 13 outfield players [you have to play]. If you want to make a rule at the start of the season, you can’t change a rule halfway through a season when there have been 22 games called off already.
“This has got to start from day one of the season, have a squad of 36 instead of 26 and play the Under-23s if you have to, but you can’t suddenly change it halfway through the season. That’s not fair.”
Durham added: “Clubs are using and abusing the situation, that’s for sure, and it definitely needs changing.”
And while ex-Arsenal star Clarke agrees, he said blame cannot be laid at Arsenal’s door.
“It doesn’t feel right to me at all, but I don’t blame Arsenal here, I blame the rules.
“The rules are wrong. Some of these clubs have 50 or 60 professionals on their books, at least 30 of them are high-profile and experienced players, and if you’re a professional footballer you should qualify to be eligible to play in the Premier League.
“The fact this one has been called off and there’s only one COVID case does feel wrong.
“But other clubs are using the system, they’ve done that clearly over the last few weeks, so I don’t think people should come down too hard on Arsenal here.
“They are depleted, but they’re depleted because of AFCON, suspensions, injuries and because of loaning out players. Pre-pandemic, how many times can you remember a match being called off because the club couldn’t put out a team? I struggle to ever remember that.
“Clubs are using this situation to get out of matches. Liverpool got their league game called off, but we saw the team they put out against Arsenal in the cup a few days later, it was so strong it was unbelievable.
“I think it did fuel Arsenal, they were really angry and they wanted to get a result there, and maybe when this north London derby comes around it will fuel Spurs in the same way.
“But, I’ve got to be honest, I still thought Arsenal could have got something from this game even though they were depleted. Tottenham with no Heung-min Son, I feel Arsenal could have got a draw or maybe even a victory.”
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