Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has called on the Premier League to reject Arsenal’s request to postpone Sunday’s North London derby.
Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher criticized Premier League sides for taking advantage of football’s current Covid-19 crisis, while urging clubs to give younger players opportunities.
Arsenal became the last club to request a postponement on Friday after they filed a request to call off Sunday’s crunch in the North London derby.
Arsenal have filed a request to postpone Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham
Mikel Arteta’s (photo) Gunners played Liverpool away in the cup on Thursday evening
Arsenal currently have one known Covid case – Martin Odegaard – and Granit Xhaka has been banned after his red card against Liverpool on Thursday.
However, Calum Chambers, Cédric Soares, Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are all doubting pre-match injury concerns – an issue that has clearly raised suspicions at Tottenham.
Mikel Arteta is also without Arsenal’s Africa Cup of Nations contingent: Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe.
Granit Xhaka (right) misses the derby after a red card for a challenge on Diogo Jota
The former players insisted it wasn’t an immediate ‘dig’ at the Gunners, but urged clubs to stop the requests.
“I sincerely believe that all teams, not just in the Premier League but now in the EFL, should be made to play their matches,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“Balogun has been loaned, Maitland-Niles has been loaned, Xhaka has been shown a red card, no one else’s fault. We can’t cancel the fixtures.’
The former Manchester United defender claimed top flights were using the Covid-19 outbreaks as an excuse to avoid playing matches they believe will not win.
Gary Neville (pictured) called for the rejection of Arsenal’s request to postpone Sunday’s derby
“If it was purely due to Covid in extraordinary circumstances and there were 10 or 15 players gone,” he added.
“But we are now talking about teams from the past few weeks where there is no doubt that they have canceled games based on whether they think they have the best squad or the best team to win a game. It must stop.’
Neville insisted he did not name Arsenal as the only culprits, but believed their request should be rejected ahead of the North London derby.
“And I have to say that this is not a dig at Arsenal,” he said. “I should have spoken three or four weeks ago. Manchester United and other teams have 30 or 40 players in their roster, I don’t think they can get 14, 15, 16 players together.
Neville insisted that teams like Manchester United who have ’30 or 40′ players have no excuse
“And so for me it has to be rejected. Without knowing the exact details, unless there’s an absolute load of Covid cases coming in at Arsenal today, I feel like I played in Liverpool last night and played fantastically well by the way, that it has to stop now. They have to let teams play.’
His fellow pundit, Carragher, also insisted he didn’t put the blame entirely on Arsenal, but insisted that the rest of Europe’s top notch were not struggling with the same problem.
“I don’t want this to be about Arsenal. It’s about the Premier League as a whole. This is not a dig at Arsenal. Every club has done this,” said Carragher.
Both Neville and Jamie Carragher insisted Arsenal were not the only culprits
“No other league in Europe does this, especially not in those big leagues. Bayern Munich played a 16-year-old in the last game that tells you where they are.
‘Why can’t we? Why can’t the young players get the chance in these circumstances?
“Everyone is in this together and I’m with Gary if it’s a Covid outbreak and it has decimated the squad then I could understand. But players in AFCON, normal injuries, that has nothing to do with it.
‘You have U23 teams. You also have younger players. This is an opportunity they may get.
“I know there’s a lot of driving in PL games, I understand that, but at the moment I think there’s no doubt that teams across the country are taking advantage of the situation.”