One Premier League match this weekend has already been postponed due to an outbreak of coronavirus cases at Tottenham
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has called for clarity over Covid-19 postponement rules after Premier League sides were told to return to emergency protocols to limit the spread of the virus.
Tottenham’s Europa League Conference game with Rennes on Thursday was postponed after Spurs reported that eight players and five members of staff had tested positive.
Sunday’s match between Brighton and Tottenham is also off as fears rise over the potential impact of the surging Omicron variant on the English top flight.
Yet Arsenal’s Premier League match at Brentford on the opening weekend of the season, which they lost 2-0, went ahead despite four of Arteta’s squad testing positive.
Asked if he wanted league chiefs to set a threshold for the number of cases that would trigger a postponement, Arteta said on Friday: “I’m saying that would be really helpful, yes.”
“I think it is because you don’t know when you have to play and when you don’t and we have some examples about that,” he added on the eve of Arsenal’s home game against Southampton.
“The decision has to be made first of all to protect the players and the environment, this is the first thing. Afterwards obviously we need to maintain certain criteria so all the clubs are competing and we can all compete in the same conditions.”
The Premier League has written to its 20 clubs returning training ground protocols to “emergency measures”.
It followed an announcement this week by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the government was tightening virus restrictions in England.
The UK as a whole has had more than 10 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and over 146,000 people have died from the virus, one of the highest tolls in Europe.
Norwich manager Dean Smith, whose side lost 3-0 to Tottenham last week, faces a nervous wait to find out if any of his players will be ruled out of Saturday’s Manchester United clash because of a positive test result.
“We have got a couple of knocks and have got a couple of Covid-related issues that we are waiting on results for this morning,” Smith said.
“(They are) just feeling a little bit unwell, not likely to be linked to the game last week with Tottenham. It is just in general, I think (like) with the whole nation, (we are) holding our breath at the moment.”
Rules had been relaxed at Premier League clubs with high vaccination rates, allowing players to remove masks indoors and use their original dressing room, but they are now returning to the emergency measures.
“We will try to be as cautious and careful as possible and do all the things,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
“It might be an extra test per week. With Champions League games we get tests twice a week anyway — now we’ll probably get tested three times a week, which I’m completely fine with.”
Clubs have also been advised to limit social interactions, meaning Christmas parties are likely to be off the table.
Manchester City’s training ground was shut down by an outbreak of cases just under a year ago.
City manager Pep Guardiola said his players were still on “alert” to prevent a similar outbreak at the busiest time of the year for Premier League clubs, with six rounds of fixtures scheduled to take place between this weekend and January 3.
“The concern is always here — the variant or the pandemic is still in society,” he said.
“We follow the protocols. Everyone is alert. What happened with other clubs can happen here, absolutely. Wear masks, social distance, be careful.”