Mikel Arteta says teams having the ability to field new signings in rearranged fixtures isn’t something that concerns him too much given the number of issues caused by the ongoing pandemic.
The Premier League has been forced to postpone 15 fixtures so far this season – the majority for Covid-19 related reasons – leading to a backlog of games that will now take place during or after the January transfer window.
Southampton manager Ralph Hassenhuttl says he raised the issue of fielding newly registered players during a recent meeting of Premier League managers and questioned whether the integrity of the competition could come under the microscope if allowed.
On Friday, the Saints boss said: “How many games have we had postponed? I think 16, 17 or 18 games so far. It is something that you cannot stop playing in December and wait for a signing in January to play.
“Nobody did this but it could in the future be an opportunity. You shouldn’t get that … We could now sign four players and against Brentford we could play with a completely different squad.”
When the issue was put to Mikel Arteta, he countered with another hypothetical situation.
“It’s a really tricky one,” said the Spaniard. “What about if you had three major injuries to players that were able to play in that [original] game and then they cannot play and then you have to sign some players because they [have injured their] three achilles tendons, what do you do? Do you then play with academy players? Then it’s not fair either.
“Listen, in a world where we cannot control certain things, the calendar can be difficult, one day you were going to play maybe with a crowd, maybe without a crowd.
“A lot of things have changed and we have played through that so I think this is the smallest of the problems. This is how I would define it.”
In France, it appears a rule is already in place to counter such situations. After Arsenal loaned William Saliba to Nice last January, the centre-back was blocked from playing against Marseille because the match had been pushed back from November 2019 to February 2020.
Given Arsenal plan to be active in the market in the coming weeks, perhaps Arteta is keen nnot to get himself into a situation where he looks like a hypocrite.
“We want to improve our squad in every transfer window and we want to have a better squad balance in every transfer window,” he reaffirmed in his pre-Nottingham Forest press conference.
He went on to say he’s “optimistic” about signings and explained how he and Technical Director Edu are tackling the various opportunities to strengthen and move players on.
“We have a leadership team that is in constant communication,” said Arteta. “Obviously, Edu and I talk every single day, we share all the ideas, the concerns that we have, all the opportunities. He’s in full charge to go through all the markets, the opportunities with his team.
“We are lucky because we have great communication, we’ve known each other now for a few years, we’ve been through a lot since we both joined the club and we are very aligned, not just with him but as well with all the directors and the ownership.”