Six Premier League games and 19 fixtures (out of 36) in the second, third and fourth English tiers needed to be postponed following COVID-19 outbreaks. The Premier League decided to act, as they confirmed emergency meetings with clubs will take place early next week.
Several teams have asked through their managers and club officials that football stops until the new year.
Is the fairness of the league affected by the postponements?
Managers will be consulted, but first, the Premier League will talk to club owners on Monday. Five top-flight clashes were officially postponed since Thursday, with Aston Villa v Burnley being called off on Saturday morning following an outbreak inside the Birmingham club.
“I don’t think we want half the games played and half not played,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said in his weekly press conference.
“The league really loses something if it becomes disjointed in terms of games played,” Howe added.
Newcastle sit 19th in the table and have seen relegation rivals have games postponed. The Magpies lost to Liverpool in the midweek round and will play Manchester City on Sunday. The clash is one of the just four that were given the green light to go ahead this weekend.
“When you start losing players to COVID, then the worry is the competition becomes slightly unfair and I don’t think anyone wants to see that,” Howe stressed.
“A decision needs to be made to ensure integrity is maintained in the competition. I think it is on a knife-edge,” the manager argued.
Other managers have asked the Premier League for “more clarity” when it comes to the criteria they apply for a match to be postponed.
“We need more clarity on why those games are not being played and what you need to not have a game played, so you can maintain the fairness of the competition,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said. Leeds and Arsenal were involved in the sole game on Saturday, which the North London club won at Elland Road 4-1.
The #PL Board has postponed #AVLBUR because of an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the Aston Villa squad
Full statement: https://t.co/0f2PmvCUg3 pic.twitter.com/sfJH787NH0
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 18, 2021
Klopp: ‘We miss five or six games. When do you want to play them?’
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes the Premier League strategy shouldn’t change, allowing as many games as possible to be played.
“I just don’t see 100% the benefit of it. Stopping the league means we stop now for one to two weeks, it means missing five to six games. So when do you want to play them?” Klopp said.
“We have a game on Sunday, we have then a game on Wednesday in a competition, then in January the FA Cup where, if I am 100% right – and tell me if I am wrong – the opponent has no real testing regime and the vaccination rate is really low. But we don’t know anything about it and we don’t get any kind of information because it’s football and we have to play against them,” Klopp lamented.
How many players in the Premier League are vaccinated?
This week, EFL published figures showing 25% of the players in the Championship, League One and League Two had no intention of receiving the vaccine.
In the Premier League, 68% of the players had been double jabbed by October. An update on the figures is expected to be released over the next few days.
Many of the clubs will consider the vaccine among the criteria they use ahead of their January transfer window activity.
“You would look at everything before you make a decision to approach a player to join your club and in the context we are living in that [the vaccine] can be one of those factors,” Arsenal boss Arteta said.