So now we know…Arsenal’s hand has been played and the extent to which we have absentees has been laid bare, as the club confirmed yesterday afternoon that they’ve applied to the Premier League for a postponement of the match on Sunday against The Scum.

Mikel Arteta spoke to the Arsenal website in the morning and there we some quote from him at lunchtime about how he didn’t know the status of some of our players and that they would be checking in on a number of players yesterday ahead of the game. He has maintained all along that they want to play every game and, unlike many managers in the league, he’s also been consistent in saying injuries and suspensions are not an excuse. But the announcement on the website that Arsenal had been talking to the Premier League kind of lays bare just how deep our problems go. If we have applied for a postponement to the game on Sunday it means we’ve shown the Premier League the absentee list and I’m taking that to mean no Tomiyasu and no Smith Rowe, who won’t have been passed fit having missed the Forest game and then the Liverpool game on Thursday.

And this is where it gets uncomfortable for me, I’m afraid, because if there’s one thing that’s riled me in the last week-and-a-half it’s been the perceived injustice of teams gaming the system. I’m a man who loves the view from up high on the morale high ground and I’ve been delighted with Arteta’s response when he’s said “we just want to play” in the last two months. It has felt like we’ve risen up above the game players and just got on with it. But with the announcement yesterday it does feel like we’re getting our hands dirty with some of the other Premier League clubs who have gamed the system today. I feel like we’ve got ourselves in to a bit of a pickle that we didn’t really need to and we are using a ruling to get a match postponed of our own making.

The purpose of the rules in place for match postponements are based on number of available players. This season the Premier League has taken that in to account. But when you have just one player – Odegaard – who is supposedly out with COVID, yet you are applying for a postponement because you have injuries, have sent players on loan, plus suspensions, as well as players away at the African Cup of Nations, then this is partly of our own making. We knew that we wanted to offload Maitland-Niles. We knew that we needed to give Balogun time away from the club on a loan move. We knew about the missing players for the AFCON. And at this time of the year we know that players pick up knocks and you start to get suspensions kicking in a little more frequently. This all feels a little murky to me and as somebody who would like to consider himself a rationale fan (at times!) and somebody who wants transparency and fair play, this doesn’t feel like it. We as Arsenal fans can’t chastise Liverpool for cheating the system and then claim this situation is different. Of course hopefully we won’t outright lie like they did in claiming a host of false positives and making it very public about closing their training ground so the world can see.

Having said all that, the response from the Premier League, as well as the response from a litany of journalists since Arsenal made the announcement, has made me laugh. There seems to be some kind of universal outcry going on, whereas when Liverpool did this almost 10 days ago, we were greeted with a host of journalists talking about this being ‘the most sensible thing’. Eh? Don’t go to war over one club and ignore the same approach from others. That’s inequality and that’s enough to wind people up.

In addition to that, if the Premier League DON’T call this game off now, then you have to wonder where the consistency is. This is a rod of the Premier League’s own making. They should have said to some of the teams that first started to test this rule, “that’s not enough COVID cases to warrant this, just deal with it”, because then we’d have transparency. If the Premier League would have said from the outset that, say, five COVID cases must be shown, as well as your squad down to the bare bones with 13 fit players before a game can be considered to be called off, then we’d all know where we stand. We would have to suck it up and we’d probably be going there tomorrow with a reduced squad, youth players and you just have to rue your luck. Like you would with an injury crisis. We would have benefitted over the Christmas period by the way, because Wolves had a host of missing players and so we would feel hard done by now, we would have had our slice of luck playing a heavily weakened opponent. Of course I’m just looking at it from an Arsenal perspective and I know some other teams have been hit worse. I also know that it doesn’t all equal itself out because three points against the Scum is arguably more influential on a season than three against Wolves, but at least if we had transparency we would know.

We don’t know where we are and we won’t until later today. We’ll just have to see what the ruling is. Whatever the ruling is, it isn’t ideal this weekend and I just hope we can start to see some players return next week.

That’ll do me for one day methinks. You have yourself a grand ol’ Saturday and let’s see what the Premier League say later today about the whether the game goes ahead or not.

Catch you in the morrow for a…..match preview???