Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has called for the Premier League to reject Arsenal’s request to postpone Sunday’s North London derby.
Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher slammed Premier League sides of taking advantage of football’s current Covid-19 crisis as he urged clubs to hand younger players opportunities.
Arsenal became the latest club to request a postponement on Friday after they submitted a request to call off Sunday’s crunch north London derby.
Arsenal have made a request to postpone Sunday’s north London derby against Tottenham
Mikel Arteta’s (pictured) Gunners played Liverpool away in the cup on Thursday night
Arsenal currently have one known Covid case – Martin Odegaard – and Granit Xhaka is suspended following his red card against Liverpool on Thursday.
However, Calum Chambers, Cédric Soares, Kieran Tierney, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are all injury doubts for the game – an issue that has raised obvious suspicion 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) will miss the derby after receiving a red card for a challenge on Diogo Jota
The former players insisted that it was not a direct ‘dig’ at the Gunners but did urge clubs to stop the requests.
‘I honestly believe that all teams, not just in the Premier League but in the EFL now, must be made to play their fixtures,’ Neville told Sky Sports.
‘Balogun has gone out on loan, Maitland-Niles has gone on loan, Xhaka has got a red card, that’s not the fault of anybody else. We can’t be calling fixtures off.’
The former Manchester United defender claimed that top-flights were using Covid-19 outbreaks as an excuse to avoid fulfilling fixtures they believe they will not win.
Gary Neville (pictured) called for Arsenals request to postpone Sunday’s derby to be rejected
‘If it was purely down to Covid in extraordinary circumstances and there were 10 or 15 players out,’ he added.
‘But we’re now talking about teams for the last few weeks where there’s no doubt they’ve been calling games off based on whether they think they’ve got the best squad or team to win a game. It’s got to stop.’
Neville insisted that he was not singling Arsenal out as the sole culprits but believed that their request ahead of the north London derby should be rejected.
‘And I have to say that’s not a dig at Arsenal,’ he said. ‘I should have spoken three or four weeks ago. Manchester United, other teams, have got 30 or 40 players in their squad, I’m not having that they can’t 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 should be rejected. Without knowing the exact detail, unless there’s an absolute load of Covid cases come in today at Arsenal, I feel having played last night at Liverpool and played fantastically well by the way, it has to stop now. They have to make teams play.’
His co-pundit, Carragher, also insisted he was not laying the blame entirely at Arsenal’s door but highlighted that the rest of Europe’s top-flight were not battling the same issue.
‘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 that Arsenal were not the only culprits
‘No other league in Europe is doing this, certainly in those big leagues. Bayern Munich played a 16-year-old in the last game which tells you where they are.
‘Why can’t we do that? Why can’t the young players be given the opportunity in these circumstances?
‘Everyone is in the same boat and I’m with Gary if it’s an outbreak of Covid and it has decimated the squad then I could understand. But players being in AFCON, normal injuries, that’s got nothing to do with it.
‘You’ve got U23 squads. You’ve got younger players as well. This is an opportunity that they might get a chance.
‘I know there’s a lot riding on PL games, I understand that but at this moment I think there’s no doubt teams up and down the country are taking advantage of the situation.’