Premier League Covid outbreak: Managers speak out amid widespread postponements

Debate continues over how the top flight should best approach the ongoing situation.

Several Premier League clubs have been rocked by a number of positive Covid tests, leading to the cancellation of several games over the past week.

After postponements to clashes between Tottenham and Brighton, Manchester United and Brentford, Burnley and Watford, and Tottenham and Leicester City, top flight chiefs also confirmed that a total of five fixtures that were scheduled to go ahead this weekend have also been cancelled.

Sign up to our World of Sport newsletter

Manchester United vs Brighton, Southampton vs Brentford, Watford vs Crystal Palace, West Ham vs Norwich City, and Everton vs Leicester City have all been called off.

But as uncertainty continues heading into the festive fixture schedule, what have Premier League managers had to say on the matter?

We’ve rounded up all of the latest comments from top flight bosses below...

What have Premier League managers said about the Covid outbreak?

Several top flight bosses have voiced their concern about the current situation, with a variety of views on how best to proceed.

Brentford’s Thomas Frank, for instance, has called for a break in action to allow sides the opportunity to quell rising case numbers.

He said: “We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend,” he said on Thursday morning.

“Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs, everyone is dealing with it and having problems.

“To postpone this round and also the Carabao Cup round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain.”

Similarly, Brighton’s Graham Potter has expressed scepticism over how the Premier League can hope to continue as normal with positive test results on the rise.

He said: “I think the path we’re on, I’m not sure how long we can stay on it for. ‘We all want football to continue, want life to continue as best as we can but clearly health is the most important thing.

“We’ve got some issues ourselves and this week has been a little bit disturbing in terms of how quickly we’ve been affected.

“If that carries on then we’ll have to have some serious thought (about action being suspended).”

Several other managers have also hinted at a desire to see action suspended in an effort to get things under control.

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe said: “I don’t think we want half the games played and half the games not played.

“The league really loses something if it becomes disjointed in terms of the number of games played.

“I feel a decision needs to be made for the benefit of the league and to make sure there’s integrity through the competition.”

Likewise, Leeds United chief Marcelo Bielsa said: “I wouldn’t like to come up against a team that is depleted due to Covid as I wouldn’t like to take advantage of that.

“The authorities are the ones who have all the information to make these types of decisions.”

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa on the sidelines at the Eithad Stadium. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Meanwhile, Everton manager Rafa Benitez has emphasised the need to prioritise player and staff safety.

He said: “We can see that the virus is going up everywhere, so then we have to be really careful.

“If the Premier League decide to cancel games, I feel that it could be an opportunity to be sure that we control and test them again, like we’re doing all the time, so that we can start again without any issues.

“Today we had little issues, and other teams had bigger issues so I think we need to be an example for all the rest of society. The health of everyone is the most important thing.”

Other managers have taken a much more non-committal tone, with Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta suggesting that trust has to be placed in the relevant authorities to make the right call on postponements, and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel insisting that his squad will be ready and willing to deal with any decisions they are presented with.

Arteta said: “I think there are people that know much more than I do to try to find out what the best solution is for this.

“It’s not something I want to give an opinion on because I’m not a specialist. We have to rely on the government and Premier League to make the right decision.”

His Stamford Bridge counterpart told BT Sport: “I don’t want to get involved in this political stuff.

“If the other games are postponed, they are postponed. If they decide we have to play even with our cases, then we play and do the best.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, on the other hand, is relatively insistent that games should go ahead for the time being - albeit with a more forgiving schedule.

He said: “Stopping the league is probably not the right thing but with the schedule we have to be more flexible.

“So far football kept it pretty much outside with the testing regimes, the massive disciplinary things for the boys did really well, but this time it is really difficult.

“I don’t see the massive benefit of it [stopping the Premier League] because we come back [and] it is still the same.

“If the virus will be gone then I am the first that stops and goes home and waits until it is gone. But that is probably not the case, so where’s the real benefit of it? We hope we can play and Tottenham can play on Sunday.”

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.