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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

English Premiership

Arteta fears virus spike could damage Premier League season

LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 28Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta fears the spike in Premier League players contracting coronavirus is a sign the forthcoming season might be damaged by the pandemic.

Several top-flight players have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning from holiday ahead of the Premier League campaign’s opening matches on September 12.

Manchester United star Paul Pogba and Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele were left out of the France squad after positive tests this week.

Arteta was the first Premier League figure to get the virus in March, just days before the 2019-20 term was halted until June.

The Spaniard recovered fully and led Arsenal to FA Cup final victory against Chelsea.

But, talking ahead of Saturday’s Community Shield clash with Liverpool, Arteta warned the season could be put at risk if cases continue to climb.

He believes clubs will have to plan for losing players to the virus in the coming months.

Asked if the increased positive results were a sign the season is on a knife-edge, the 38-year-old said: “Yes, and I think we are going to have many more cases in the future unfortunately.

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“You are just planning to do something and then that player tests positive, and that positive was a false positive.

“We are trying to get used to it, get around it, and trying to manage the situation as well as we can.

“There is not much we can do and we know that there are some uncertainties we cannot control at the moment.”

It is understood the Premier League is not expecting there to be any need to delay the start of the 2020-21 season.

Should clubs feel there is an issue with fulfilling a fixture due to a virus outbreak, the protocol is that they should approach the league’s board concerning a possible postponement, and issues will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The number of positive cases when the season resumed in June were minimal given players had been training and operating inside of a bubble.

That is different this time round as players travelled abroad on holiday in the off-season before reporting for pre-season duties, the hope being now squads are reassembled, the number of cases will once again drop off.

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