Arsenal could regret north London derby postponement as Tottenham eye injury returns and new signings

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Arsenal’s statement confirming the postponement of yesterday’s north London derby described the club as “disappointed” to relay the news to fans.

Given they requested the delay and lobbied the Premier League to make it happen, “relieved” or “delighted” might have been more believable emotions to express at a decision which has provoked widespread consternation.

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For Arsenal, taking advantage of the Premier League rules was a no-brainer with just 12 senior players definitely available yesterday, but they may come to regret not playing Tottenham as planned.

Focus has naturally been on Mikel Arteta‘s depleted squad, but even in their current state the Gunners have potentially missed a good time to play their rivals.

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Spurs’ drubbing by Chelsea over two legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final has removed the gloss from their unbeaten League start under Antonio Conte, and they were going into Sunday’s game at a low ebb.

Without injured centre-halves Eric Dier and Cristian Romero, the defensive solidity instilled by Conte has waned and they were also missing Heung-min Son, while Sergio Reguilon was a doubt. Conte also revealed on Friday that Spurs were checking a possible Covid case of their own.

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While Arsenal showed impressive resilience against Liverpool on Wednesday, Conte has made no bones about the fact that Spurs can scarcely compete without all their best players available.

“For us, much more than other teams, it’s very, very important to recover all the important players. It’s life for us to recover these players,” Conte said on Friday.

There is also the issue of Conte’s own position, which is in the spotlight following his damning assessment of the squad in the wake of the 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Last week, he repeatedly refused to give assurances he would see out the 18-month contract he signed at the start of November and there is concern that an underwhelming January transfer window could destabilise the Italian’s position just three months into his tenure.

Arsenal could regret north London derby postponement as Tottenham eye injury returns and new signings
© Provided by Evening Standard Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are likely to be refreshed and revamped for the rearranged game (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

By not playing yesterday, Arsenal have given their rivals a chance to return key players – Romero is back in training, while Reguilon and Steven Bergwijn, at least, should be fully fit for Wednesday’s rearranged visit to Leicester – and regroup post-Chelsea.

By the time the match is rearranged, Spurs also hope to have begun reshaping the squad – with Conte in the market for a forward, a midfielder and a wing-back before the end of the month and eager to move on a number of unwanted players – and moved beyond the questions about the head coach’s future, which are considered premature inside the club.

Finally, by exploiting the Premier League rules to have the game postponed, despite having just one Covid case at the time, Arsenal have enraged their rivals, provoking considerable frustration from players and supporters alike. Spurs will have extra motivation when the game is played.

With both clubs out of Europe, finding a free midweek for the rearranged fixture at Spurs should be straightforward, and Arsenal will hope it comes when their injuries have cleared and their stars have returned from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The danger in opting not to play this weekend is that Tottenham may also be in a far healthier position, and with a score to settle.

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