Conte hits out at Premier League after 'very strange' Arsenal postponement

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has criticised the Premier League for allowing his side’s North London derby last Sunday with Arsenal to be postponed due to injuries.

Conte was in bullish mood in front of the press on Tuesday and clearly had a bee in his bonnet about the call-off which came with the Gunners having some Covid-19 cases, but also having players out injured or at the African Cup of Nations.

It’s not the first time this season that Conte has blasted the Premier League, and the Italian also took his opportunity to have a swipe at English football’s saturated fixture schedule.

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“The club [Tottenham] made a statement and I think that the club expressed our disappointment about the [Arsenal] decision,” Conte said.

“It was for sure a strange decision but I think the club made an important statement to tell about our disappointment for the decision.

“If the Premier League decides to postpone game for injuries it means they have to try to make the best schedule and reduce maybe to play games if they don’t want injuries or the risk to postpone for injuries.

“This is the first time in my life that there is a league that postpone the game for injuries.

“This is very strange and I’m very surprised for this.

“If someone has to think of the welfare of the players you have to play less games and especially you have to play games not [every] two days, three days. Otherwise do you speak about the welfare of the players? It is only an excuse or to tell something stupid in my opinion because you protect the players by giving them rest, to play and rest.

“But if you want only to play you can’t speak about the welfare of the players. It is very strange here.

“When there is the situation to play we have to play and not to postpone game for injuries, for international duty.

“I think that we have a big problem to solve that is Covid but only about this situation can you decide to postpone.

Antonio Conte

Image credit: Getty Images

“For other situations, honestly, this is the first time in my life and I think I have a bit of experience in football. To see this type of decision was very strange because this way everything can happen.”

Conte is also of the belief that double standards have been applied, with his team dumped out of European competition for the season due to the Premier League’s original refusal to postpone their Premier League game with Leicester City, meaning Spurs had were unable to rearrange their Europa Conference League group game with Rennes.

“It was a big damage to Tottenham from the Premier League,” Conte said.

“You have to protect your team and they penalised us in a bad way. We were penalised and from the Premier League not from UEFA.

“This is very strange and in this type of situation there is a big disappointment for us.

“But we can talk one hour here. We can talk one day. I understood that the situation is this and we have to accept but for sure there is a big disappointment for the decision that they are taking.’


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The Emirates FA Cup

Winks: Conte has given me opportunities at Spurs other managers didn’t

10/01/2022 AT 13:30

Lewandowski wins on farcical night at The Best, did Vlahovic say goodbye? – The Warm-Up



Winning a Best FIFA Player award after missing out on the Ballon d’Or is like scoring a screamer in a 6-1 defeat. Like this.


Puskas, best coaches, world XIs – Who won what at FIFA awards?


Which is a shame because unlike the France Football equivalent, the FIFA gongs are actually voted for sensibly with the power shared equally between national captains, national coaches, select journalists and the fans. So while Robert Lewandowski didn’t win the one he really wanted, in many ways this one should matter more. It doesn’t. But it should.

Then again, the ceremony in Zurich was a bit naff. Terrible, actually. Stunted questions from famous faces, Erling Haaland on mute and a tempo that Per Mertesacker could have eclipsed in an Arsenal shirt, it didn’t really do justice to the two main winners – Lewandowski and Alexia Putellas.

In a ridiculous twist, Putellas and the two other finalists – Jenni Hermoso and Sam Kerr – were overlooked by their fellow professionals from the Women’s World XI. Captaining a team to an unprecedented treble is enough to scoop individual awards, but don’t you even think about stepping foot in the combined team, Alexia.

Lewandowski was included in the men’s equivalent, big relief, but only after being shoehorned into a maverick 3-3-4 formation that inevitably featured Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Then again, with N’Golo Kante in the team it might just work. Mohamed Salah finished third in the overall vote, but could not nudge his way into this obscene attack.

There was also the latest instalment of “Messi didn’t vote for Ronaldo, Ronaldo didn’t vote for Messi” – although to be fair, this time it was probably not out of spite. But it does make you wonder why FIFA and the Ballon d’Or went their separate ways – together, they could be so much stronger.

Just play the kids!

It’s every youngster’s dream to be called upon in their club’s time of need – “we need you, son” – and if any good can come from this wretched pandemic, then let it be the emergence of some new talent.

Instead, Burnley have become the latest team to slap the word “Covid” into a press release and hide. So what if a team is missing a load of players? If there are enough people at the club – whether that’s the Under-23s or the kitman – then the game should go ahead. Since Burnley sold their best bet of survival to a rival, their own fault for putting in a low release clause, they haven’t kicked a ball in the league. And they aren’t the only team taking advantage of the rule. The whole thing has been a shambles.

Any more postponements at Turf Moor and Burnley could find themselves bottom of the Premier League with a hatful of games in hand, simultaneously in a relegation fight and a battle for Europe.


Goodbye Dusan?

What’s that? Dusan Vlahovic with his hands in the air during Fiorentina’s game last night? Unequivocal proof that he’s bound for the Premier League? Spicy.

(He also missed a penalty and is probably just apologising for that, but that’s not as juicy so let’s run with the first explanation please)


Heroes: Leeds United social team

For this excellent tweet which piled on the misery for TOWIE star and West Ham fan Mark Wright – who ‘famously’ came off the bench during Crawley Town’s shock FA Cup win over Leeds last season.

Zero: Erik Lamela

Only a Tottenham player could score a rabona in the derby, win the Puskas, and still end up on the losing side. *Insert your favourite Audi Cup joke here*

Look, we love this rabona. But given Erik Lamela’s moment of magic came in a 2-1 defeat to their arch-rivals, behind closed doors, means it’s hard to say this is worthy of Puskas status. Apologies, Erik.


…the most pressing, is football’s complete inability to promote Black coaches. That’s an issue throughout the game, and seems to be the modern version of Black players not being trusted in some positions.

If you’ve got two minutes, this Twitter thread from New York Times supremo Rory Smith is a powerful and worthy use of your time.


Brighton or Chelsea try and get their match postponed at the last minute – or failing that, they actually play at 20:00 GMT – while there are four games in AFCON: Malawi v Senegal, Zimbabwe v Guinea (both 16:00), Gabon v Morocco and Ghana v Comoros (both 19:00).

Marcus Foley is trying to postpone tomorrow’s Warm-Up because he’s got a poorly leg. Don’t let him to do it, Eurosport chiefs.


Lewandowski beats Messi to Best FIFA Men’s Player award



2021 FIFA Best Awards LIVE coverage – Lewandowski, Putellas win top awards


Man Utd want McGinn, Arsenal braced for Mari transfer backlash – Paper Round

Man Utd target McGinn

Manchester United have put Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn on their summer shortlist, the Telegraph reports. United are working on a list of targets to pursue once they have appointed a new manager, and with the midfield viewed as a priority, McGinn is one name under consideration. The Scot has more than two years remaining on his current contract at Villa Park, and this summer will likely be the last window where Villa can get a big fee for the 27-year-old.

Paper Round’s view: McGinn to United has been mooted for ages, and though it feels like years and years ago that Sir Alex Ferguson urged the club to sign the Scotland international, apparently it was only 2019. Valued at around £40m, United will have to decide whether there is better value elsewhere, but McGinn is a top-class player and would certainly improve the side.

Africa Cup of Nations

Aubameyang to return to Arsenal for further assessment after post-Covid heart issues



Martinez to Everton off

Roberto Martinez’s chances of returning to Everton have taken a blow, the Telegraph reports. Journalist Jason Burt gives a somewhat non-committal and confusing “never say never but Martinez to Everton is off…” on Twitter, but his piece explains that the move is unlikely because the Belgian FA are unwilling to let their head coach simultaneously take charge of Everton and the national team. Martinez is keen for a Premier League return, but also wants to lead Belgium out at the World Cup at the end of the year. Belgium are less keen on this idea after receiving an approach from Everton.

Paper Round’s view: Martinez wants it all, but Belgium aren’t playing game, and you can’t blame them either. This so-called golden generation of Belgian players will not want their manager distracted, especially as this could be the nation’s final big push for World Cup glory while so many talented players are at – or close to – their peak. If Martinez wants an Everton return so much, he could do Belgium a favour and just leave – that may well boost their World Cup chances anyway.


Arsenal braced for backlash

Arsenal are on the brink of loaning out Pablo Mario, the Mirror reports, with the decision likely to lead to a backlash after they sought to delay Sunday’s match against Tottenham due to a lack of players, a request which was granted by the Premier League. Arsenal have agreed a loan deal with Udinese for the defender, although it remains unclear whether they will have enough squad members to face Liverpool in the League Cup on Thursday, a match which hangs in the balance because of the predicament at Arsenal.

Paper Round’s view: No surprise a backlash is expected, and you have to imagine the Premier League and FA will come down harder on clubs if they willingly let players leave on loan and then claim they cannot fulfil a fixture. It has already been absurd, this could take it to another level.


Everton owner selling up?

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is considering selling the club and taking a £100m hit in the process, The Sun reports. Fans have protested against the club’s ownership in recent months, with the mood at Goodison Park souring while Rafael Benitez was in charge as manager. Benitez has now gone, and now Moshiri could decide he’s had enough, even if that means accepting an offer of £350m, having invested more than £450m into the club.

Paper Round’s view: This news would probably please Everton fans, so long as any prospective new owners have good intentions. It has been a disasterclass at Everton in recent years, and the recent shambles surrounding Benitez’s appointment and departure potentially tops the lot. A fresh start could be just what the club need.

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Aubameyang to return to Arsenal for further assessment after post-Covid heart issues

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is set to make an early return from the Africa Cup of Nations for further assessment on heart issues.

The Gabonese striker missed his side’s first two games in Cameroon having been diagnosed with “cardiac lesions”, believed to have been caused by Covid-19.

Aubameyang tested positive for the virus on arrival in Africa, and was one of three players to subsequently be diagnosed with the medical issue.

Africa Cup of Nations

Aubameyang misses Gabon’s clash with Ghana after fears over ‘cardiac lesions’

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And having been in regular contact with the Arsenal medical staff, the 32-year-old appears likely to miss the remainder of the tournament and return to England.

The Gabonese football federation confirmed in a statement that both captain Aubameyang and midfielder Mario Lemina, formerly of Southampton and Fulham and now at Nice, had been permitted to return to their clubs.

‘It’s so painful’ – Arteta on Aubameyang punishment

Manager Patrice Neveu explained that this was to allow the players to “be treated and taken care of”, though Arsenal have been assured that the issue is minor.

Having been stripped of the captaincy at the Emirates Stadium and exiled from the first-team squad in December, Aubameyang had been expected to look for a move away from Arsenal.

Gabon face Morocco in their final Group C fixture in Yaounde tomorrow.

A controversial late goal against Ghana leaves them well placed to progress, with four points from two games.

Aubameyang and Lemina are not the only players to have been forced to miss recent games due to fears over heart problems.

Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies has been ruled out for the next month due to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, having similarly contracted Covid-19.


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Premier League

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Tottenham vs Arsenal postponed

Tottenham’s match against Arsenal on Sunday has been postponed as the Premier League accept the Gunners’ request.

Mikel Arteta’s side made the request due to a shortage of players missing because of injury, Covid and international duty, with reports suggesting that they have at least a dozen players unavailable.

The Premier League confirmed their decision on Saturday afternoon.

Premier League

Arsenal apply for north London derby postponement, PL to decide on Saturday


Spurs are understood to be unhappy with the decision given they have endeavoured to play before, during and after bouts of Covid within their own squad.


Loftus-Cheek to Juve, Emerson and Broja to return? Tuchel gives Chelsea transfer update



Arsenal thrive after Granit Xhaka’s inspirational dismissal – The Warm-Up


Arsenal apply for north London derby postponement, PL to decide on Saturday

Arsenal have applied to have this weekend’s north London derby postponed on account of Covid, injuries and Africa Cup of Nations absentees.

Following rumours that they would ask for Sunday’s visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to be put back, the club released a statement which read: “We can confirm we have made an application to the Premier League for the postponement of Sunday’s north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

“We have reluctantly taken this step but we have many players currently unavailable across our squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players away with their countries at AFCON. We will provide more information as soon as it’s available.”


Loftus-Cheek to Juve, Emerson and Broja to return? Tuchel gives Chelsea transfer update


Emile Smith Rowe, Sead Kolasinac, Bukayo Saka, Cedric Soares and Takehiro Tomiyasu are all sidelined as things stand. Smith Rowe is out with a groin injury, Kolasinac is nursing a hamstring problem and Tomiyasu has a calf issue, with Saka and Cedric both forced off during Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool on Thursday evening.

Throw in a positive Covid test for Martin Odegaard and the long list of Arsenal players at AFCON – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and youngster Omar Rekik are away at the tournament – and an already threadbare squad looks even more ragged.

Asked whether Arsenal would seek to postpone the north London derby earlier in the week, Mikel Arteta admitted it was conceivable. “It’s a possibility in any game from our side, from the opponents’ side, because of the amount of issues that everybody is having and because it’s happening every week, but we try to prepare for the games thinking that we’re going to play,” he said. “If something happens along the way, it is what it is.”

Following Arsenal’s announcement, the Premier League issued a statement to confirm that it had received their application. “The Premier League has received a postponement request from Arsenal relating to their away match against Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 16.30 GMT on Sunday 16 January,” it read.

“The Premier League Board will meet tomorrow to review the application and inform both clubs and their fans of its decision.”


Arsenal thrive after Granit Xhaka’s inspirational dismissal – The Warm-Up


League Cup

Arteta applauds 10-man Arsenal’s ‘brotherhood’ after battling goalless draw


Loftus-Cheek to Juve, Emerson and Broja to return? Tuchel gives Chelsea transfer update

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has hinted that more on-loan players could follow Kenedy back to the club as they deal with injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell.

James is expected back before the end of the season while Chilwell is not under consideration until the start of the new season, and the England internationals’ absence has led to left-sided player Kenedy to come back from his loan spell at Flamengo.

With Chelsea famous for their extensive loan operation, there have been suggestions they could bring back other players during the January transfer window to bulk up their numbers.

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Two that have been mooted are Emerson Palmieri, with the left-back on loan at French side Lyon, and Armando Broja, who has impressed in his time at fellow Premier League side Southampton.

The German coach was non-committal that they could be back in action for the blues, but did not rule it out, saying on Friday:

We will announce about bringing players back.

Tuchel was also quizzed on the possibility of Ruben Loftus-Cheek leaving temporarily, with the England midfielder linked with Juventus as a replacement for Arthur Melo, who is wanted by Mikel Arteta at Arsenal given his own club’s shortcomings in midfield.

“He hasn’t had a lot of game time and a lot to fight for here,” Tuchel said.

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Tuchel praises ‘relaxed’ Lukaku after Chelsea beat Spurs

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Premier League

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04/01/2022 AT 20:09

Arsenal thrive after Granit Xhaka's inspirational dismissal – The Warm-Up


Dammit, Granit

Some footballers get sent off. Some footballers get sent off a lot. But nobody gets sent off quite like Granit Xhaka, a walking paradox, a walking-off-to-the-showers paradox. How can something be so surprising and yet so inevitable? How can one man be completely of-course, but at the same time totally how-the-hell.

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Genius is restless. Last night against Liverpool, Xhaka took himself and his art to strange and challenging new places. He did not commit a red card offence. He achieved two simultaneously, each superimposed on the other: a quantum dismissal. Was he sent off for fly-kicking Diogo Jota in the chest, or was he sent off for denying Jota a clear goalscoring opportunity? Yes.

It’s a strange game, football. Statistically, an early red card is almost the worst thing that can happen to a team; worse even than an early concession. But every now and then, a red card happens and it seems to make things simpler for the side affected. Not easier, necessarily, but simpler. The game reduces and clarifies, becomes a question of survival and nothing much more.

So it went at Anfield. Arsenal bunkered back, sealed off the penalty area, and said to Liverpool: ah hah, what good is the extra man, if there isn’t any extra space? And Liverpool, absent their best two forwards and with Trent Alexander-Arnold — their best can-opener — in unusually subdued form, couldn’t find a decent response. Ah hah! they said. And then: Er…

Well, Takumi Minamino in front of an open goal should have been the answer, but that didn’t go so well. All perfect plans need a bit of luck.

By the Warm-Up’s reckoning, this is the fourth completely different performance that Arsenal have turned in this calendar year, which isn’t bad going when they’ve only played three games. First they stood up against Manchester City and played them off the park; then, also against City, they collapsed into a heap of daft decision-making. Then they stank the place out against Nottingham Forest.

And now at Anfield, where they should have collapsed, they didn’t. Instead, Arsenal found unexpected reserves of concentration and focus, Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale emerged as the dominant personalities their transfer fees promised, and an improvised three-man midfield ran hard in front of an improvised five-man defence.

We might assume that inconsistency is the hallmark of a young and emerging team, and look to the positives. Or we might conclude that this whole Arsenal adventure has come unmoored from pedestrian reality and is floating off into a higher realm, where the laws of causality have been taken apart and then tied back together in exciting new patterns. Or both! Let’s go with both.

Anyway, there’s a north London derby at the weekend. Xhaka will miss it, which for Arsenal is good news and bad. He can’t get sent off if he isn’t playing, but Arsenal don’t really have a midfield without him. Maybe the solution is to hold some kind of pre-game ritual in which Xhaka is ‘dismissed’ by a mascot dressed as a referee, has a bit of a pretend argue, and then shuffles off to the directors’ box. All the inspirational benefits, none of the actually having to play with 10 men.

As for Liverpool, there were some important lessons here. For a start, don’t pick a midfield three of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho, because you’ll end up in a strange place where Joël Matip is your most creative midfielder. For an end, kicking the ball into the open goal is a good plan. Sort that, and they’ll be fine for the second leg. Arsenal will have 11 men again, and so there should be more space.

Williams Power

More Super Cup, Spain? You really are spoiling us. There is probably an argument that runs something like: it’s a bit daft, running a four-team mini-tournament in Saudi Arabia, during an ongoing pandemic and one of the busiest seasons in recent memory.

But if this wasn’t happening, we wouldn’t have been given the heart-warming sight of Iñaki Williams giving his younger brother Nico, who had just scored the winner, a really, really big hug. So who can say, on balance, if this is good or bad.

It was a lovely goal, too. Every fibre of his being must have been screaming SMASH IT, SMASH IT AS HARD AS YOU CAN. But no, it was time for precision, and it was no more than Athletic deserved. By this point in the game, Atlético had melted away entirely, and it was more or less a battle of wills between Jan Oblak and all comers.

But as well as a proud moment for the Williams family, and a well-earned victory for this delightful Athletic side, this result kept a very important statistic alive. It’s three years now that Spain has been running the expanded Supercopa, and in each of those three years, the final has been between the two teams that wouldn’t have been playing under the traditional rules. It’s this kind of gentle, emergent contrariness that keeps football interesting, despite the best efforts of everybody running the thing.


Obviously the most exciting game of yesterday was the one the Warm-Up wasn’t watching. But thank you anyway, to Napoli and Fiorentina, for three red cards and seven goals. Beautiful.


As enjoyable as it was watching Arsenal defend, and defend very nicely, it was hard not to feel a little short-changed. This fixture generally brings goals. Sometimes lots and lots of goals. Hey, remember when Andrey Arshavin scored four and still didn’t win? Fun times.

That finish on the fourth goal, in a way it’s the exact opposite of the Williams goal above. He has to place it. All he has to do is place it. Instead he smacks it as hard as he can, and it all turns out nicely.


We’re going over to the Financial Times today, because we want you to know that this is a fancy Warm-Up that reads the fancy papers. Sometimes. At least, we do when they have interviews like this one, Murad Ahmed’s delightful account of time spent with Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso. Takes quite a personality to make both owning a football club, and being a literal, actual billionaire, sound like absolutely no fun at all.

When I ask Commisso, 72, if he’s enjoying owning the club he acquired in 2019 for €170m, all he has are gripes. Like the time in May when he held a press conference which descended into a slanging match with journalists. In a fit of pique, he offered to sell the club to any local who could stump up €335m within 10 days. There were no takers. “[If you] don’t have the money,” he snorts, “you should shut up.”


Friday night in the Premier League, and what do we have here? Why, it’s only Brighton against Crystal Palace, the nation’s most geographically distant derby. That’ll be fun. Before that, the AFCON group stages continue with Senegal vs. Guinea and Malawi vs. Zimbabwe.

Have a good weekend. Tom Adams will be here on Monday, assuming he hasn’t bought Fiorentina before then.


Arteta says Xhaka will be a ‘big loss’ and urges others to ‘step in’

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Premier League

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Arteta applauds 10-man Arsenal’s ‘brotherhood’ after battling goalless draw

Mikel Arteta has applauded Arsenal for their “fight, determination, attitude and brotherhood” following a goalless draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Anfield.

With 24 minutes on the clock, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Granit Xhaka made a lunging last-man challenge on Diogo Jota. With Liverpool bombarding Aaron Ramsdale’s goal in the aftermath, Arsenal looked to be on their way to a decisive defeat.

Premier League

Arteta says Arsenal still have ‘pulling power’ and confirms Nketiah will stay


Instead, Arteta’s side managed to hold out for over 70 minutes, including injury time, and grind out a stalemate despite Liverpool taking 17 shots to their three. Having brought on Rob Holding for Eddie Nketiah in response to Xhaka’s sending off, Arteta took great satisfaction in the performance of his makeshift back five and, indeed, the rest of the team.

Speaking after the match, Arteta said: “We certainly revelled against the situation, which I expect from the players. I think they showed real fight, determination, attitude and brotherhood.

“You could see the emotion they were playing with. They never gave up, it’s extremely difficult against this opponent and, credit to the boys, it’s just the first leg but, to do what we’ve done today, I think they deserve a lot of praise for that.”

When it was put to him that going down to 10 men seemed to inspire Arsenal, he said: “I don’t know if it inspired them, but we certainly took the fight [to Liverpool]. I said before the game, when you come here you have to have a certain attitude… in really difficult moments you have to act, you cannot be reacting because then it becomes really complicated.

“I think the boys did that extremely well in certain moments. We played the game that we had to play, which is not our game, but we managed to play the game that we had to.”

Asked whether he agreed with referee Michael Oliver’s decision to show Xhaka a red, Arteta was noncommittal. “I haven’t seen it back, but they checked it so it probably was the right call,” he said.

Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, was happy to concede that Liverpool were not at their best on an evening when they squandered numerous chances to win the game. “I thought we really started well in the game, direct, and it really was how we wanted to start actually,” he said.

“It was a really nice ball from Robbo [Andy Robertson] on the counter-attack, but I would have preferred to have scored a goal rather than them getting a red card… when you play against such a low block, that is anyway in football one of the most difficult things to do and I’m not surprised that we struggled against that tonight.”

With Xhaka now suspended for the north London derby on Sunday, joining Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard on the sidelines while fellow midfielders Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are at the Africa Cup of Nations, Arteta faces a selection headache.

“We have the motivation, to play a derby brings that energy when you don’t have it,” he said, when asked about the trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. “No excuses, it is what it is.”

The Emirates FA Cup

Should Arsenal apologise to Idris Elba? – The Warm-Up

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The Emirates FA Cup

‘I just did it to try to improve the performance’ – Arteta defends decision to sub Tavares

09/01/2022 AT 22:12

Odegaard likely to miss north London derby after confirmed positive test

Martin Odegaard looks set to miss the north London derby on Sunday after returning a positive Covid test.

Arsenal confirmed the news on Twitter ahead of the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool. While they did not confirm the date of Odegaard’s positive test, the mandatory seven-day isolation period will almost certainly rule him out of contention at the weekend.

Premier League

Arsenal look to balance the present and the future – The Warm-Up

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While the government has announced that the self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid will be cut from seven days to five, that will only come into force next Monday. As such, Odegaard will be sidelined for the full week.

His absence would represent a serious setback for Mikel Arteta’s side ahead of one of their most important games of the season. Tottenham are currently one place and two points behind Arsenal, meaning that a derby day triumph would see them leapfrog their rivals into fifth.

Speaking about the importance of Odegaard last month, Arteta said: “He’s very, very young but he’s already had a lot of experience in different clubs, in international football.

“The ceiling for him, I don’t know where it is, with the talent that he has, the desire that he has, how much he wants to always improve and get better.

“We’ve got a tremendous player there. He is a natural leader. If you look for the perfect professional, he wouldn’t be very far from that.”

Odegaard has started Arsenal’s last 10 matches in all competitions and, having made 21 appearances already this term, his status as one of Arteta’s trusted lieutenants is undeniable. He has four goals for the season so far, with his most recent coming against Southampton in December.

During his initial spell on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid, he scored a vital equaliser in the north London derby to cancel out Erik Lamela’s outrageous rabona. Arteta’s side went on to win the game thanks to a penalty from Alexandre Lacazette, making Odegaard an instant cult hero.

Arsenal are already light in midfield as things stand, with Emile Smith Rowe currently sidelined with a groin injury. They are also missing Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, who are at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana and Egypt respectively.

Having tested positive for Covid himself, Granit Xhaka returned to start at the base of midfield alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga at Anfield. He was sent off with just under 25 minutes on the clock and will now sit out the north London derby through suspension.

With limited options at Arteta’s disposal, Odegaard was always going to be sorely missed at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Xhaka’s red card has only made the situation more drastic, leaving Arteta to come up with a creative solution as derby day looms.


‘Always in my heart’ – Odegaard bids emotional farewell to Arsenal fans

03/07/2021 AT 21:31


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