I don’t like talking about them, but upon hearing the news that Tottenham are on the verge of having their games against Rennes and Brighton potentially postponed due to the outbreak of COVID cases that is in their camp, I can’t help but feel incredibly frustrated and aggrieved. It feels like there is one rule for The Arsenal and another for everyone else, doesn’t it? I mean, we went down 2-0 to Brentford on the open day of the season with five players missing. We were told that making the request was fruitless and that we shouldn’t bother. So why, with the addition of three players, do Tottenham get the dispensation that we were not afforded? What difference is an extra three players with cases?
Let me be clear on this: that it is Tottenham as a comparator is just a minor footnote in the issue here. For me the issue here is politics. We all know the reason why our game was called off and now the Premier League are happy to be a little more open to the idea. It isn’t because the Scum are the golden team of the Premier League, but more that of timing, because the start of the season effectively having a game called off would have had the media asking questions about how the league could continue, etc, etc. Now, with the season in full swing, it is just a frustrating situation that everyone is used to, so the game is called off and Tottenham don’t have to play with a depleted squad. UEFA’s rules themselves state that if a team has 13 players available then a game must be played. The Scum have a 25-man squad and have eight confirmed cases. 25-8 = 17 players that would be registered, not including younger players who don’t have to be registered. So how have they managed to get the rules to bend to their will?
Where is the equality? Where is the universal application of the rules? Where is the consistency?
There isn’t any. It’s just like how VAR seems to have gone this season. A player can stamp another player on the head like Godfrey and get away with it, or tug somebody in the box like Maguire on Tomiyasu and get away with it, or even just outright boot somebody in the air like McArthur and get away with it. Where is the consistency and where is the universal application of the rules in a standardised way?
It doesn’t exist. And that’s what makes football fans – not just Arsenal fans – mad. What we have now is a situation where Tottenham are being given an advantage. If they beat Brighton – which you’d expect – where Arsenal dropped three points against Brentford – then you are basically talking about a six point swing. Imagine if we lose out to them for top four, for example, then you’re basically talking around £15 – £16million I believe. That’s big money. And big business. And for the Premier League to apply rules differently is a dangerous game. So my hope is that sense prevails and the Premier League tell Tottenham that a precedent has been set on the first game of the season and the game must continue.
I’ve seen people argue that this is a matter of health of the players. Well, yes, which is why those players have to stay at home and self isolate, because it is in their best interest to recover and there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t truly want another person not to make a full and speedy recovery if they contract this horrible virus. But if games are being called off due to mass absentees, what next? Should Tottenham have had their game called off when they all ate some dodgy pasta? Should any team with a long injury list cite unusual and unforeseen circumstances and get matches moved? Southampton have a number of their goalkeepers missing and have just signed Willy Caballero on loan for a month to cover. Should they have cited this as a reason why they shouldn’t have to play the game?
I know I’m being a little over the top in my examples, but once you set a precedent like they did at the beginning of the season, you cannot waver. It is harsh on Tottenham, of course, but what the league and FA should have done at the start of the season is set out their approach. If they’d have stated that there is a new extraordinary rule which is being brought in for COVID, that from the beginning of this season any team with a certain number of COVID cases amongst the first team squad could request for a postponement, then we wouldn’t even need to feel this injustice because the rules would be there in black and white. If they’d have set a number of, say seven cases amongst the registered first team 25-man squad, then that’s it. Tottenham get their postponement, we as Arsenal fans have to rue our bad luck and treat it like an injury crisis, everyone moves on. But this lack of clarity has bred the feeling – certainly within me – that the rules are different for others. And that eats away at the spirit of competition.
Sorry, I know I am going on a rant today, but it is just frustrating and irritating at the perceived injustice. And after that Godfrey challenge on Monday it just feels like it’s all piling up on us. I know the COVID outbreak from the Scum is nothing to do with us, but I view everything through the prism of Arsenal and see things as a slight on my club even though it has nothing to do with us.
I think I’m going to leave it there for the day. Mikel will have his press conference tomorrow I think, so we might get some team news ahead of Saturday’s game against Southampton. Then I can get back to moaning about how crap Arsenal are. 😉
Catch you all tomorrow.
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