It’s worth remembering, as most sensible people in the UK have very firmly holed up in their homes where possible, that the Premier League may have merrily carried on gathering thousands of people together in the same place had Mikel Arteta not tested positive for Covid-19 about 48 hours before Arsenal’s scheduled game against Brighton last Saturday.
Arteta may have inadvertently therefore saved quite a few lives, and while the Arsenal training ground is still in lockdown as they announced on Monday that it would be “irresponsible” for them to open it up again, Arteta has been talking about what happened.
“Everything happened very fast,” Arteta said on Spanish TV. “On Tuesday afternoon I was feeling so-so and I went to see the doctor but he wasn’t there. I got a call from the board of directors after training while I was in my car and they told me the president of Olympiakos had tested positive and everyone who had been in contact was at risk.
“I went on to tell them that I wasn’t feeling well and that we had a situation because we had lots of players that had been in contact with them. We had a game against Manchester City the next day and obviously we couldn’t put lots of people at risk without saying anything.
“I had the test done last Wednesday and I was diagnosed on Friday, when we had to communicate it to the Premier League that I had tested positive. Obviously all those who had been in contact with me had to go into quarantine, and consequently games had to be suspended.”
What goes on behind closed doors
It feels a bit weird to be even discussing the circumstances under which football will return, but the conversation has to exist at some level.
The most convincing theory is that games will be played at some point after April 30, probably more towards June, and quite probably behind closed doors.
And according to Bobby Barnes from the PFA, albeit speaking from a pretty cold and financially-driven perspective, players are at least relatively comfortable with that idea.
In an ideal world we’d be playing in front of crowds but I think it’s more a case of there being no alternative.
We’re not in an ideal world and the players I’ve spoken to accept that’s what it will have to be.
Football is about fans. But the reality for the vast majority of the players, particularly at the highest level, is their income is funded by television money and there are contracts that have to be adhered to.
In order for us (the PFA) to be able to protect those players in terms of securing their salaries, if that’s the only offer we have on the table to complete the season, then that is what it will be.
IN THE CHANNELS
Your old pal James Richardson wanders back down the paths of nostalgia to Italy in the 1990s. Golazzo: The Football Italia Story really is a joy, from the very lo-fi beginnings of what became a cultural touchstone, to japes with Paul Ince and puns with Elvis Costello. Woof.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Juan Mata
This really is a time for the good eggs to emphasise their status as good eggs, and in football there are fewer gooder eggs than Juan Mata, and there are fewer better ways to emphasise your status as a good egg by making a heartfelt promise to an adorable child who has gone viral on social media.
Zero: The Warm-Up
We haven’t actually done anything wrong (the only reason we’ve left the house in the last five days is to go to the shop for food, and wine) but going by this we’re not going to survive self-isolating, because today’s Warm-Upper’s birthday is July 20, meaning by this graphic we’re supposed to be working out with Felix Magath. Pray for us.
On this day 23 years ago, Robbie Fowler displayed great sporting honesty/dived and quickly realised he was going to get caught – depends on your point of view really. But in these strange times, a little positivity is required, so let’s assume for the sake of argument that he was just being honest.
There has been an emphasis on creating a small, unified group of players to make up the first team at each club Nuno has managed, starting with Rio Ave and moving on to Valencia, Porto and now Wolves. Indeed, Wolves have used just 20 players in the Premier League this season, made more surprising by their success in the Europa League, a competition they started back in July. His awareness of the importance of keeping everyone involved is likely a consequence of his playing experience. Throughout his career, he was more used to sitting on the bench than being the starting goalkeeper and he never likes a player to think they have no chance of being part of the next match.
A bunch of Swedish teams appear to be taking part in a series of friendlies, Russian sides too, which frankly is a bit weird. But you take what you can get in these days of limited/no football at all. So if you’re interested, the giants of IFK Stocksund meet the titans of Karlbergs BK, while the big daddies themselves Saturn Rameskoye face off against their old foes FC Sakhalin.
Ben Snowball will be here tomorrow. No guarantees that he’ll have anything to talk about but he’ll be here.