Mikel Arteta believes the rise in coronavirus cases among Premier League players proves the upcoming season is on a knife-edge.
A number of players, including Paul Pogba, have tested positive for Covid-19 as they return from short holidays to begin pre-season training before the top-flight kick-off on 12 September.
Arteta was the first high-profile case among the British football community when he contracted Covid-19 in March, the catalyst for the season being halted as the pandemic took hold.
Arsenal’s manager, speaking before Saturday’s Community Shield against Liverpool, warned that the season could be at risk if cases continue to climb and believes clubs will have to plan for players being unavailable because of the virus.
Asked whether the increased positive results were a sign that the season is on a knife-edge, he replied: “Yes – and I think we are going to have many more cases in the future unfortunately.
“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 any need to delay the start of the season. Should clubs feel there is an issue with fulfilling a fixture owing to a Covid-19 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 was minimal given players had been training and operating inside a bubble. The hope is that as squads are reassembled, the volume of cases will drop.