Arsenal are the latest Premier League side rocked by Covid as Sambi Lokonga tests positive


Arsenal are the latest side to suffer from the Covid outbreak that has rocked many Premier League teams after midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga tested positive for the virus.

The Gunners confirmed after announcing their side to take on Leeds United at Elland Road this evening that the midfielder would not feature in their squad due to the positive result. 

Manager Mikel Arteta revealed pre-match that Arsenal have already had to close their Colney training ground after reporting a ‘few cases’ among players and staff following their mid-week 2-0 victory over West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium. 

‘We could not train the day after the match because we had to close Colney’, he said. ‘We had a few cases. We had quite a lot of the staff members (with Covid) and a few players as well.’

Arteta insisted that in regards to becoming the latest team to be hit by Covid, that ‘the Premier League have to make a decision’ on whether the league should consider briefly suspending the top flight fixtures. 

Despite the outbreak at Arsenal though, their evening encounter with Leeds at 5.30pm still went ahead as planned. 

Arsenal’s Sambi Lokonga was ruled out of the game against Leeds due to a positive Covid test

Manager Mikel Arteta admitted there had been a Covid outbreak at the club's training ground

Manager Mikel Arteta admitted there had been a Covid outbreak at the club’s training ground

Sambi was an unused substitute for the London derby and news of the 22-year-old’s positive test comes on a day when Arsenal’s clash with Leeds is the only Premier League game taking place in the top flight. 

Aston Villa were due to host Burnley at 3pm but the game was called off just over two hours before kick-off after Villa were unable to field 14 players as required. 

Including Leeds vs Arsenal, it left only four Premier League matches to be contested this weekend with Sunday’s games seeing Newcastle United take on Manchester City, Wolves host Chelsea and Tottenham playing their first match since December 5 when they entertain Liverpool.  

Spurs have seen three games, including a Europa Conference League game against Rennes, postponed due to Covid cases since their 3-0 win over Norwich City. 

Despite Sambi's positive test and Arsenal's Covid outbreak, their Premier League match at Leeds United on Saturday evening still went ahead

Despite Sambi’s positive test and Arsenal’s Covid outbreak, their Premier League match at Leeds United on Saturday evening still went ahead

The club have revealed they have also closed their London Colney training ground (above)

The club have revealed they have also closed their London Colney training ground (above)

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Brighton’s lunchtime trip to Manchester United was the first match to be postponed this weekend, before Southampton v Brentford, Watford v Crystal Palace, West Ham United v Norwich City and Everton v Leicester City were later called off by the Premier League in one swoop. 

After a surge in cases due to the omicron variant significantly impacted the top-flight, the Premier League have strongly urged clubs to encourage their players to get vaccinated.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has stressed the importance of vaccination for footballers in a letter to all 20 clubs.

As reported by the Athletic, he wrote to clubs: ‘We have collectively highlighted the importance of vaccination and it has never been more important.

Villa's Premier League clash with Burnley was called off just two hours before kick-off

Villa’s Premier League clash with Burnley was called off just two hours before kick-off

Fans had already arrived for the match as a steward informs them of the postponement

Fans had already arrived for the match as a steward informs them of the postponement

‘This is not only for the obvious benefit of protecting against COVID, but government guidance now dictates that unvaccinated close contacts of positive COVID cases must isolate for 10 days, and there is no exemption or exception to this.

‘Please strongly encourage those who are not fully vaccinated to become so, and the many who are, to get their booster, which appears to be the only significant layer of protection against the Omicron variant.’

Masters also insisted that everyone should be ‘aware of the importance of completing the season, while maintaining the safety of players, staff and fans’.

Premier League chief Richard Masters has urged clubs to encourage players to get the jab

Premier League chief Richard Masters has urged clubs to encourage players to get the jab

Last figures in October revealed that 68 per cent of players had not been fully jabbed

Last figures in October revealed that 68 per cent of players had not been fully jabbed

Following the tumultuous week of coronavirus outbreaks, Premier League shareholders are set to meet on Monday amid calls from some clubs to shutdown the season

Brentford boss Thomas Frank led calls to temporarily stop the busy winter schedule so the affected teams can recover earlier this week.

While Newcastle boss Eddie Howe, whose side are due to play on Sunday, said he fears for the integrity of the Premier League, claiming: ‘I don’t think we want half the games played and half not.’

Eddie Howe is worried for the integrity of the Premier League with games being called off

Eddie Howe is worried for the integrity of the Premier League with games being called off

But that is not the view shared by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, with the latter claiming there is not a high enough ‘level of postponements’ to justify a temporary pause. 

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And an expert in public health has told Sportsmail that there will be no benefit from a shutdown, while Covid-19 infection rates are rising so rapidly, and the Premier League must prepare for six weeks of chaos. 

Premier League chiefs will meet at the start of next week to discuss the coronavirus situation, but the top-flight still want to carry on the season as planned, with the majority of clubs wanting to continue playing. 

HOW OMICRON COVID OUTBREAKS HAVE THE PREMIER LEAGUE ON EDGE

Aston Villa 

Forced to postpone Premier League clash with Burnley on December 18 just two hours before kick-off after an increased amount of positive Covid-19 test results within their playing squad. 

Brentford

The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker szhutdown to help clubs recover. Their training ground has been closed and as a result their trip to Southampton on Saturday has been postponed. 

Leicester

Would have been without several players for Tottenham’s visit on Thursday due to Covid before the game was postponed – despite initial calls being rejected – hours before kick-off.  Their training ground was closed on Thursday morning to contain the outbreak but given they have an insufficient number of players available, their weekend trip to Everton is also off.

Manchester United

Case numbers are currently unknown but a large outbreak saw their game with Brentford postponed. Calls to have Saturday’s game with Brighton to be postponed were accepted on Thursday, and it has emerged that United would have had only seven available players for that game such is the impact of the outbreak. Their training complex is closed until Tuesday at least, in order to reduce the risk of transmission.

Brighton

Had a request for Wednesday’s game with Wolves to be postponed rejected by the Premier League following an outbreak at the club. Graham Potter confirmed there were ‘three to four’ positive cases before the game, which they lost 1-0. Saturday’s game with Manchester United has now been postponed.

Norwich

Manager Dean Smith was facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. Josh Sargent, Lukas Rupp and Pierre Lees-Melou were absent from the squad that faced Aston Villa in midweek for ‘Covid-related’ reasons, but while Christos Tzolis is the only confirmed player to test positive, more positive test results have been returned. The Canaries had discussions with the Premier League over Saturday’s clash with West Ham and it was agreed to postpone as they have an insufficient number of players available. 

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Watford

Saw their midweek game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. With their training ground closed, their home match with Crystal Palace has now been confirmed as postponed too. Case numbers are currently unknown but they do not sufficient players to fulfil the Palace match.

Tottenham

Spurs were the first Premier League club to be hit by the Omicron variant last week and saw games against Brighton and Rennes postponed after cases reached double digits among players and staff. Those who tested positive for the virus are expected to return in the next couple of days after completing their 10-day self-isolation period. Spurs’ clash with Leicester on Thursday was postponed despite initial demands to have the game called off were rejected, but Sunday’s clash with Liverpool is due to go ahead.

Chelsea

After Brentford, the Blues became the latest club to be hit by a Covid outbreak, after it was confirmed ahead of their game with Everton that four more first-team players had tested positive. Mateo Kovacic was the first Chelsea player to get the virus in the outbreak this week, with Romelu Lukaku, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell following. Neverthless, their game with Everton went ahead and was drawn. They are due to play Wolves on Sunday.

Liverpool

It was confirmed just an hour before kick-off against Newcastle on Thursday night that Fabinho, Curtis Jones and Virgil van Dijk were all out having tested positive for Covid. They won the game 3-1 and are due to play Tottenham on Sunday. 



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