Arsenal defender Ben White has been ruled out of their London derby against Chelsea on Sunday – live on Sky Sports – after testing positive for Covid.
The defender becomes the latest Gunners player to test positive for the virus, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian and Runar Alex Runarsson were forced to miss their defeat by Brentford last week.
Mikel Arteta later said he was “surprised” the fixture was not postponed following the outbreak in his squad.
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There is no official threshold for the number of positive cases that would cause a game to be called off, but the 2021/22 Premier League handbook states “permission will not be granted to postpone a league match where the applicant club has 14 or more players listed on its squad list available”.
Arteta refused to comment on claims that his players contracted the virus during a party for Aubameyang’s son, saying: “I don’t know where it came from. We can only guess where it came from.
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“A week before they had three or four negatives and then a positive. We have no clue where it came from.”
Mikel Arteta says he was surprised Arsenal’s game at Brentford was not postponed after several members of his squad tested positive for coronavirus
Aubameyang was able to return to the Arsenal squad for the visit of Chelsea, but Lacazette, Willian and Runarsson remained absent.
White was signed from Brighton for £50m this summer and made his Gunners debut in their 2-0 loss at newly-promoted Brentford.
Arteta hopes signings will shape Arsenal future
It is Friday morning at Arsenal’s London Colney headquarters and Mikel Arteta has just spent half an hour fielding questions on everything from the Covid outbreak that threw his opening-day plans into turmoil to the critics trying to “bury” him and his side.
The fallout from Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Brentford has been intense but Arteta is defiant. The response among his players has been “incredible”, he says in his press conference. Sunday’s clash with Chelsea is described as an opportunity to change the mood.
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta says new signing Aaron Ramsdale has ‘huge potential’ and will add competition to his squad
If Arteta is feeling the pressure, he is not showing it. “I just have enthusiasm, passion and a will to work, to make this project a magnificent project,” he tells Sky Sports with a smile. “That’s my responsibility, that’s why I’m here, and that’s what I enjoy doing.”
Defeat by Brentford was a setback but Arteta’s belief in what he is trying to achieve at Arsenal is as strong as ever – “from day one to today, there is no difference,” he says – and so too is his determination to set the club up for long-term success.
It can be seen in their recent transfer dealings. Only an hour before this interview, Arsenal confirmed the permanent signing of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid. The subsequent arrival of goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale pushes their spending north of £125m.
Odegaard and Ramsdale follow Ben White, Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga through the door this summer and one similarity stands out: they are all aged 23 or under.
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