COVID-19 continues to impact the Premier League and distort the table

New guidance will hopefully stop games being postponed but the row over some cancellations goes on

A Nike 'winter' ball is spray with a disinfectant at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

Despite the relaxation of rules in relation to COVID-19 in the UK, it is still causing major disruption within the Premier league.

Last month I addressed the issues that the pandemic was having on the top division in England and explained what I thought was wrong and how we should move forwards.

Fortunately, the ‘firebreak’ did not happen, and games continued over the Christmas period and into the New Year. 

But there have been plenty of games postponed and it has left the league in a rather disrupted state in which the 20 teams have all played a varying number of games, between 18 and 24. This disruption means that league positions are currently somewhat irrelevant. 

In recent weeks there has been uproar about some specific postponements. The most notable of these is the case of Liverpool and their false positive tests. 

Liverpool requested that their first leg semi-final fixture against Arsenal in the League Cup be cancelled due to positive tests in their camp. 

The game was postponed but only seven days later it was revealed that only Trent Alexander-Arnold was positive and it is understood that there were 40 false positive cases.

When speaking to the media, Jurgen Klopp said: ‘We thought we had a proper outbreak last week and it showed up we had a lot of false positives.’

There was major backlash from this with many fans accusing Liverpool of avoiding the first leg at the Emirates with the hope that they may have a stronger squad for its rearrangement. 

Further questions have been raised from the Southampton camp as to the legitimacy of the league if games continue to be postponed.

Saints boss Ralph Hassenhuttl stated that he didn’t think that January signings should be allowed to play in rearranged games.

Hassenhuttl explained that all clubs were suffering the same and he thought that it was too easy for games to be postponed.

He said that with the new owners at Southampton they could easily sign four players and use a ‘completely different squad’ but didn’t think this was fair.

This current issue applies quite heavily to Burnley. The Clarets have only played 18 games and in the last two weeks received £25m for their striker Chris Wood. They are now in a position to reinvest this money and buy a player or two.

This could mean a different look to their team and a possible advantage in not yet rearranged games even though it was them that postponed the games originally. 

The main issue I had with the COVID-19 postponement rules was the inclusion of injuries within the Premier League rules for postponement.

Injuries have always been a part of the game and I felt it was unfair when teams were claiming postponement due to having a couple of injuries.

We haven’t asked for any postponements despite having three of our back four out for multiple weeks.

However, the Premier League has now changed the guidance regarding postponement. The new guidance states that rather than ‘available players’ the league will now look at ‘active covid cases’ before granting postponement. 

In order to apply for postponement, clubs must have four active covid cases. The word guidance has been used by the Premier League due to fears of the threat of changing rules halfway through the season. 

Changing the rules could lead to the league being sued and that is not something they are willing to risk. 

The whole COVID-19 situation has left this season in a pretty similar state to last. Many are suggesting that the league this season isn’t as legitimate as a normal season due to the disruption that has been caused. 

Many fans also believe that some teams are picking their moments to postpone games rather than actually needing to. 

I think the new change in terms of the four active covid cases is a good move as it will reduce the chance of teams requesting postponements for no reason. 

Further, it will mean that teams will have to get on with injuries like they would in a normal season. 

Unfortunately, as valid as Hassenhuttl’s point is about new signings, I can’t see that being deployed as teams will say that they didn’t postpone games by choice.

With government rules changing in the UK, my hope is that we are coming to the end.

Hopefully the disruption to football drops off soon and we can go back to not worrying about whether our game is going to go ahead or not. 

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