Arsenal’s season has been plunged into serious doubt after the entire first-team squad was placed into self-isolation following Mikel Arteta's positive test for coronavirus.
Arsenal announced on Thursday evening that their head coach had tested positive for COVID-19 and also admitted that the club would not be able to fulfill some of its upcoming fixtures.
The Gunners were due to take on Brighton at the Amex Stadium on Saturday in the Premier League before traveling to Sheffield United next weekend for an FA Cup quarterfinal.
CORONAVIRUS AND SPORTS: Cancellations of games, events
Both of those games at the very least will now have to be rescheduled, with Arsenal’s squad having to self-isolate for 14 days following their last point of contact with Arteta.
That came on Tuesday, when the Spaniard led a full training session at London Colney in preparation for Arsenal’s match at Manchester City, which was due to be played Wednesday night.
That game was subsequently called off, however, when some of the Arsenal players had to go into self-isolation after it emerged they had come into contact with Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who is also suffering from coronavirus, after the Gunners’ defeat to the Greek side in the Europa League on Feb. 27.
That period of self-isolation had been due to end Thursday night, but the period of quarantine has now been extended until Tuesday, March 24, with all members of the first-team squad included.
Arsenal is due to host Norwich on Saturday, April 4, and then travel to Wolves on Monday, April 13, but there is a sense behind the scenes at the club that it would be unfair to expect players who have been self-isolating for 14 days to compete against sides that have potentially been training and playing as normal.
And it is understood that many clubs, including Arsenal, do not believe the season can now be able to continue and want the Premier League to take firm action.
Arteta first started to feel ill on Wednesday morning, when the squad was on a day off. He was then tested for COVID-19 and received the news that the test had come back positive at around 9 p.m. Thursday.
The positive diagnosis is not being linked to Marinakis, as Arteta did not have any contact with the Olympiacos owner during or after the game with the Greek side last month.
"This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly," Arteta, 37, said in a statement released by the club. "I will be at work as soon as I'm allowed."
Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal's head of football, added: "Mikel and the full first-team squad, players and staff, will be fully supported, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.
"Obviously Mikel’s full recovery is the priority now for us all."
In light of Arteta’s positive test, the club is now working to identify everyone who has been in close contact with the Spaniard during the past couple of weeks.
The coaching staff is now also in self-isolation, as are members of the communications team, as well as various other club personnel based at the training ground and some staff at the club’s Hale End academy.
Goal has been told that well over 100 people have now been told to self-isolate, with the training centres at London Colney and Hale End having both now been closed while they undergo deep cleans.
Three academy matches have already been postponed, including the Under-23s clash with Tottenham which was due to be played on Friday night.
In light of Arteta's positive diagnosis for coronavirus, the Premier League has announced that it will convene an emergency meeting Friday morning to discuss its response.