As Arsenal got their game underway in Switzerland, news was heard around the world, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. Shortly after, the Premier League issued a statement that confirmed all Matchweek 7 Premier League games would be postponed.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, and I do believe there are sound cases for both sides of the argument, the ruling will certainly have some impact on teams already facing an unprecedented schedule that navigates a Winter World Cup.
With the worldwide event taking place from 20 November to 18 December, the prestigious international cup is bookended by compact club schedules, making it an interesting predicament to reschedule. Clubs have midweek fixtures now until the new year, which likely means this match, plus any others, will be moved to the second half of the year — a time when teams may be facing fatigue from having star players attend the World Cup and handling the fixture load of any cup competition runs.
While this week of matches are done, dusted, and postponed, all Arsenal eyes are turning toward next weekend when the Gunners were slated to play away at Brentford on Sunday, a day that runs the risk of coinciding with the Queen’s memorial service. If this is the case, it’s very likely that Arsenal have a second straight Premier League match postponed and moved to after the new year.
There is no word yet on whether or not this matter will leak into European competition or how UEFA will handle the mourning period. Currently, Arsenal are still slated for a Thursday matchup against PSV Eindhoven.
Again, I’m not here to argue whether his decision has been, and is, the correct course of action. I am sure those thoroughly in favor of postponing all events will take up the stance of, “this is bigger than football”, “this is just how these things go”, or “it’s a matter of respect”. Those already against it would likely be aggravated further, especially given the other sporting events that carried on as planned.
But how should Arsenal fans view the effects it may have on the team, purely from a footballing/season outcome perspective?
Arsenal have began their season in fine form, one they will want to maintain for as long as possible. It had a setback against Manchester United, a game the team dominated but suffered severely against transitions, but one would have hoped form was recaptured in the win over Zurich.
In the face of a compact schedule, as mentioned earlier, Arsenal are also navigating player fatigue and preservation for the upcoming months. Between these two factors, it felt like an okay outcome to have the weekend match against Everton postponed. It’s not as though Arsenal were running on fumes and incapable of beating the Toffees. Simply because this postponement meant a full week of rest, and then some, for the seven players rotated out of the starting lineup midweek, and a few extra days of rest for Granit Xhaka, Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel, and Gabriel Martinelli. Additionally, it meant extra time without matches for Zinchenko and Partey to heal, and even Ødegaard and Ramsdale who may have been carrying minor, minor knocks.
In summary, a little extra rest, not too long without competitive matches, and an opportunity to finish the month strong and head into a tough October with a head of steam felt good.
However, the prospect of a second straight Premier League postponement looms, and with that comes a little more concern of losing all sense of form — a clean slate for better or worse. Should Arsenal not have their matchup with Brentford, they would then head into an International break, meaning their next match for Premier League fixtures would come on 1 October and it would be a North London Derby against Tottenham.
That would make it twenty-six days without a Premier League matchup — a very long time. Of course a few of Arsenal’s regular starters would have played against Zurich, and if it is known how the league will handle the weekend, Mikel could opt to play his regular Premier League lineup against PSV Eindhoven — a real shame for those players who view the group stages as their time to make a statement — but a person can’t help but feel that is a substantial span of time to not have match minutes being put into legs as a team.
October is already a month that many Arsenal fas have been keeping an eye on, given the difficult run of fixtures. Arsenal will play:
- Tottenham (1 October)
- Bodø/Glimt (6 October)
- Liverpool (9 October)
- Bodø/Glimt (13 October)
- Leeds (16 October)
- Manchester City (19 October)
- Southampton (23 October)
- PSV Eindhoven (27 October)
- Nottingham Forest (30 October)
Nine matches in thirty days and a run of tough, tough fixtures that are likely to significantly shape where Arsenal sit in the table come this season’s winter break.
Every fan wants the team to come to that run of games rested, ready to get after it, and in form. No one wants them to come in rested, but feeling cold, and with no form. The Gunners cannot afford a slow restart after their international break. Last season saw the team slow to pick up their form after International Breaks, none more devastating than the final break that lead to them losing three in a row to Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Southampton and costing them a top four finish. They also drew to Crystal Palace after the Fall international break and drew to Burnley after the holiday break.
The whole thing, whether right or wrong, creates an ominous feeling. Arsenal have won 15 of 18 points this season, and now have a matchup with Everton postponed and potentially a second following it up. Both of these fixtures were very winnable dates on the schedule, and seeing the team head into October with 21 of 24 points would be a lot more confidence-inducing than 15 points and almost a full month away from competitive, Premier League matches. Not to mention, Arsenal would still have to make those matches up in the congested back half of the season.
One can’t help but feel the Everton postponement could have been a welcomed gift, while an additional postponement would stand as an obstacle and hill to overcome. We will await the official ruling.