Antonio Conte criticises 'unfair' Arsenal request ahead of Tottenham clash
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Antonio Conte's Tottenham were due to play Arsenal in January

Antonio Conte’s Tottenham were due to play Arsenal in January (Action Images via Reuters)

Antonio Conte believes the decision to grant Arsenal’s request to postpone the north London derby in January was ‘unfair’ and claims the Gunners had no Covid cases in their squad before they were due to play Tottenham.

Spurs host Arsenal on Thursday evening in a game which was due to be played in January 16 before the Gunners asked the Premier League to postpone the fixture because of their depleted squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players participating at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

The Premier League subsequently changed its rules regarding Covid postponements after it emerged that Arsenal had just one case in their squad when their request was submitted.

Tottenham, meanwhile, were thrown out of the Europa Conference League in December after they were unable to fulfill their fixture against Rennes due to a Covid outbreak at the club.

The Premier League also rejected Spurs’ request to postpone their game against Leicester City in December, despite multiple Covid cases in both squads.

When asked if he found it frustrating to have not played the north London derby in January given Spurs’ own difficulties due to Covid, Conte replied: ‘To speak now about what happened in the past is not useful,’

‘For sure, it was very strange that our game was postponed for Covid and Arsenal didn’t have one player with Covid.

Arsenal were allowed to postponed their game against Spurs despite having just one Covid case

Arsenal were allowed to postponed their game against Spurs despite having just one Covid case (Action Images via Reuters)

‘We lost a game 3-0 [to Rennes] because Premier League didn’t want to move our game when we had 9 or 10 players with Covid.

‘At that time, it was unfair what happened, but now this is the past and we have to be focused on the present and try to get the best result.

‘I think this could be a good chance for us to get three points against their whole team because if we played in January they were without many players because they were committed at the African Cup [of Nations] and injuries. I think football is wonderful.

‘Also this type of game it’s right to play with two teams and all the players available.’

Conte also dismissed suggestions that he would feel like a failure if Tottenham missed out on a place in next season’s Champions League.

‘Personally, in my mind, when I decided to be in charge with Tottenham, I knew very well at the time the situation in front of me,’ said Conte.

‘The team was maybe ninth in the table, only 15 points and but in these 15 points, nine in the first three games and then six in the next seven games.

Tottenham will move a point behind Arsenal if they win the north London derby on Thursday

Tottenham will move a point behind Arsenal if they win the north London derby on Thursday (Getty)

‘I knew very well the situation wasn’t good and only a crazy person could imagine that with two games to go we’d be in the race for a place in the Champions League. The club didn’t ask me to go for a place in the Champions League or Europa League. They appointed me to try to improve the situation.

‘Now we have to be proud that after a difficult season in many aspects for the club, we’re in this race. In my opinion, in my mind, it’s always a failure when I don’t win, because I’m used to fighting for something important, to have a chance, yes to have a chance to compete with other teams to win trophies and titles.

‘But when I arrived in Tottenham, I was sure it was very very difficult the situation. I tried to improve, not tried, I worked, I worked very hard with my staff and my players to improve the team and to create something, to create a base and I think that we did this.’

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