Chelsea are up to at least six first-team players currently in isolation, and rising, with Thomas Tuchel confirming after today’s 0-0 draw against Wolves that Jorginho has also tested positive for COVID-19, after Kai Havertz doing so yesterday and four others, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Ben Chilwell doing so earlier this week.
The raw number of ailing players was evidently not enough for the Premier League to accept our request for postponement, though obviously a communicable disease isn’t the same thing as just a pulled muscle. The situation isn’t just about players missing as if they were injured; it’s about spreading the disease and causing future positive cases and subsequent 10-day isolation periods (not to mention the possibility of actual symptoms, or worse).
It would be quite surprising if Jorginho’s case was the last positive in the Chelsea squad during this outbreak, but the league’s doing very little to actually protect the players like they claim to be doing. And that’s before we consider the overload this is causing for others in the squad (though Tuchel’s seeming aversion to calling up youth or reserve players is also baffling, unless we’ve made a club-level decision about protecting them from exposure or some such).
Tuchel clearly sees this situation as untenable, unfair, and in a way dangerous as well, and he’s probably not wrong.
“We were struggling with the preparation because we had several consecutive days with positive Covid tests and then we travelled together for three hours with the team, we had dinner together we had another positive test with Jorginho.
“People are worried because they were on the same bus and had the same dinner. Obviously it was not enough to postponement the match and we had to play but you cannot demand 100% focus otherwise it would be stupid to normally focus if you can do this without being calm. It was everything else but calm.
“Today in the morning at 0830 they knock on the door and have another test nobody knew about, so do we wake players up who want to sleep a bit longer? OK.
“I gave my opinion and you can do with it what you want. I can’t compare to other games, it is just our situation. It is not safe. We talk about protecting players and a safe environment but it is not safe. I would be not surprised if the next test shows up and we have more positives. How should it stop if we sit in the bus and have dinners and just stay together like nothing happened?
“I don’t care so much about the next games I just care about the next tests and the health of the players. Today we let Kovacic play 30 minutes one day after 10 days of Covid. We make him play, who takes responsibility for that? We have Kanté one training session, Chalobah with two training sessions and maybe another injury. It is like this. We need to keep on going if they say we need to keep going.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: BBC
The very last thing the Premier League want is a stoppage, that much is obvious, but it’s hard to see how they can maintain any shred of actual integrity of competition left if they keep going the way they currently are. Other countries survive just fine without football over the holidays — but if they do want to keep it going, we need more sensible and clearer rules in the first place.