Arsenal boss braced for Christmas chaos

Arteta upbeat over threat of disruption to festive fixtures

Thursday, 23rd December 2021 — By Steve Barnett

Mikel Arteta IMG_7781 (1)

MIKEL Arteta has opened up about “the difficulties” managing Arsenal through a Covid-hit Christmas programme.

This week the majority of the Premier League’s 20 clubs opted against postponing a full round of fixtures despite a series of outbreaks.

The Gunners’ 4-1 victory at Leeds was one of just four top-flight matches that went ahead at the weekend, with the league since confirming a record number of Covid cases.

As it stands, the message is: “Fixtures will continue where safely possible.” It means that Arsenal’s trip to Norwich on Boxing Day, along with their home clash at the Emirates Stadium against Wolverhampton Wanderers on December 28, will go ahead as planned.

However, Arteta has said he is ready “with plan B, C and D” as he prepares for games in a world where a match can be called off at a moment’s notice, and where he could lose half his squad to an outbreak.

“I think it is very difficult for everybody,” he told Arsenal Media.

“It is very difficult for the players, for myself, and for the staff because we don’t know really who is going to be available to do what, and we are all trying to help each other and get the best out of the situation.

“We have to have a really positive approach and your mindset must be ready that unpredictable things are going to happen – and [you must] stop complaining about everything that happens. Then you will find excuses – we can find excuses for everything.

“We know what is going to happen, we know bad news will probably come, so we have to expect it and try to prevent it, if we can, with all the protocols we have. But we have to be prepared as well with plan B, C and D.”

Meanwhile, the Covid postponements caught up with Tottenham this week when they were kicked out of Europa Conference League. Spurs were due to host Rennes at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 9 before the match was called off after an outbreak among the Spurs squad.

UEFA confirmed on Monday that the fixture would be deemed a forfeit and the result therefore recorded as a 3-0 defeat, meaning Antonio Conte’s side finish third in Group G.

It may be a blessing in disguise for the north Londoners, who are facing a major backlog of fixtures after last month’s league game at Burnley was postponed due to bad weather, while away days at Leicester City and Brighton & Hove Albion were called off due to Covid.

Tottenham are due to host Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, before travelling to Southampton on December 28.

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