By Jonathan Veal, PA
Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Wolves on Tuesday has been postponed following a Covid-19 outbreak within the Wanderers camp.
The Premier League confirmed on Sunday evening that the game at the Emirates Stadium had gone the same way as Leeds’ home fixture against Aston Villa, just hours after Crystal Palace’s request to call off their Boxing Day trip to Tottenham with manager Patrick Vieira among a series of positive cases was denied.
A Premier League statement read: “Arsenal FC’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium, due to be played at 12:30pm on Tuesday 28 December, has regrettably been postponed.
Following a request from Wolves, the Premier League Board met today and agreed to postpone the club’s away fixture against Arsenal, due to be played on Tuesday 28 December
Full statement: https://t.co/GzzMDk9fik #ARSWOL pic.twitter.com/qdR6lkWwh8
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2021
“The Premier League Board accepted the postponement application as Wolverhampton Wanderers does not have the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper) as a result of a number of COVID-19 cases and injuries at the club.
“The Board was able to make its decision in advance of the fixture to give clarity to the affected clubs and their fans. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to supporters’ festive plans.”
The governing body also repeated its intention to continue with the festive programme as scheduled and defended the process used to decide whether or not to postpone matches after the Boxing Day fixtures at Liverpool, Wolves and Burnley had fallen victim to the virus.
The statement continued: “The League is aware that the decisions this week to postpone matches will disappoint supporters, and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games.
“The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is our priority. Where possible, the League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a matchday.
“The Board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and adapted COVID-19 postponement guidance, implemented in light of the new Omicron variant.
“The Board will assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak at the club; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.
“The Board must also consider the wider risks to the opposition and other people the club representatives may come into contact with.
We can confirm that Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is self-isolating after returning a positive test for Covid-19, and will be absent from the touchline for today’s match against Spurs.
Assistant manager Osian Roberts will deputise for Vieira for today’s match.#CPFC pic.twitter.com/nBNmkLlxMG
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 26, 2021
“While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, it is the clubs’ and the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.
“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution.”
Palace’s request had earlier been rejected after Christmas Day discussions following a number of new positive cases, but the PA news agency understands the league was dissatisfied with the late application.
Former Arsenal midfielder Vieira was not present at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as he begins a period of self-isolation following his positive result, with assistant manager Osian Roberts taking charge of a 3-0 defeat.
Today's home game against Crystal Palace will go ahead as scheduled.
We look forward to seeing you all this afternoon. 💙 pic.twitter.com/lhz9EDp2am
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 26, 2021
Vieira revealed on Christmas Eve that there were a “couple of cases” in the camp, but the increase over the following 48 hours was not deemed enough to see the game cancelled.
Both clubs announced the game would go ahead in its scheduled 3pm slot shortly before midday on Boxing Day.
Palace later tweeted: “We can confirm that Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira is self-isolating after returning a positive test for Covid-19, and will be absent from the touchline for today’s match against Spurs.
“Assistant manager Osian Roberts will deputise for Vieira for today’s match.”
Today’s match has been postponed due to positive Covid-19 cases in our squad, so we are unable to field the required number of players for the game.
We apologise to both sets of fans for the inconvenience caused by the late notice.
More details to follow.#hcafc | #theTigers pic.twitter.com/RK3tMcIcOy
— Hull City (@HullCity) December 26, 2021
Just nine Boxing Day games across the Football League survived with Hull’s Sky Bet Championship match against Blackburn the last to be postponed.
The Tigers announced a little more than two hours before kick-off that the game, which was due to be televised by Sky Sports, would not go ahead due to positive cases in their squad.
Another Championship match on December 29 has been called off with Birmingham unable to fulfil their fixture against Peterborough at St Andrew’s, and Preston’s trip to West Brom the following night is also off at North End’s request.
Leyton Orient’s League Two clash with Newport on Wednesday has also been postponed after the Welsh club informed the EFL of an outbreak.