Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Leeds was the only action of a Premier League Saturday decimated by coronavirus call-offs with five games postponed due to outbreaks.
Aston Villa’s home match with Burnley became the latest casualty of surging infection rates across Britain due to the Omicron strain of Covid-19 following a worsening outbreak among the Villa squad.
Just four games are now due to be played in total this weekend out of the original 10, with the growing crisis causing chaos during the busiest time in the English football calendar.
Three games are still listed for Sunday – Manchester City’s clash with Newcastle, Wolves v Chelsea and Tottenham v Liverpool.
Tottenham revealed they will be missing just two players after an outbreak affecting at least 13 players and staff saw their last three matches postponed.
However, the justification for that match going ahead in front of a 62,000 crowd was called into question after London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the capital due to the spiking case numbers.
The British government on Friday reported 93,045 new coronavirus cases, a third consecutive record daily tally, as the new variant fuels a surge in infections across the country.
- No ‘scientific evidence’ for break -
A meeting of Premier League clubs on Monday is set to decide whether to continue with the intention of playing games where safe to do so or to temporarily halt the campaign as a firebreak for the infection rate.
In the three divisions below the Premier League, 19 of the 36 games in the English Football League (EFL) were called off this weekend.
But EFL chairman Rick Parry said there was no scientific evidence a short break would help.
“If we think a circuit breaker will help we will do it but, at the moment, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it will help,” Parry told the BBC.
“We’ve got to stick together, stay calm and keep making balanced decisions on the basis of the latest information.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta repeated his call for more transparency into the decision making of when to call matches off after his side’s victory at Elland Road.
“We were really lucky to play today with everything that’s happening,” said Arteta, whose own positive test accelerated the Premier League’s three-month shutdown at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“I told the players to enjoy the game and give everything because I don’t know how this will develop.”
“Now it’s play as you can and we’ll play as we can. The Premier League will make the best decision for everybody, but we want to play all under the same rules.
“That’s where I think they have to come forward. Whatever they decide is best for the competition has to be explained.”
For the second time in a week, Burnley had a match called off hours before kick-off due to a worsening outbreak among their opponents’ squad.
Villa said positive results from PCR tests taken on Friday were returned on Saturday morning.
“After reviewing all the new information provided by Aston Villa this morning and receiving separate medical advice, the board approved the request as a result of the club not having enough players to field a team,” the Premier League said in a statement.
Some managers have voiced concerns over the sporting integrity of the Premier League should the authorities insist on playing on.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank this week called for a suspension of matches to “break the chain” of infection while Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp said it could soon become impossible to maintain the schedule as squads became over-stretched by Covid absences and injuries.